Posts Tagged ‘ advocates ’


UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED…

Written by admin
October 25th, 2018

UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL!  It could be the hook line of a 1960’s chart hit.  It could be the slogan of any number of Trade Unions.  It could be part of the anthem of any number of variously successful football teams.  In truth, it is a fair synopsis of the early summer negotiations with the MOJ in relation to advocates graduated fees.

How clearly we remember the rallying cry for HCAs & Counsel to stand together in refusing new work with rep orders dated after the 1st April.  How clearly we remember the confident assurances of the Bar that if we “stood shoulder to shoulder” we would be unstoppable.  How fervently the Bar leaders applaud us to work with them for the same goals? And now what?

What was it that the arch negotiators of the Inns of Court were able to achieve? A £15m boast – derisory in itself – that in fact was worth less than £10m by the time that inflation had eaten into it, VAT had been removed and some more astute calculations had been worked through.  A 1% increase, which turned out to be less than almost anybody else in the public sector was due to get in 2019.  Adjustments that we are going to need, not only a consultation but also a statutory instrument.  As autumn presses forward, the consultation is extended further into the future.  The statutory instrument is unlikely to find its way before Parliament until the start of the New Year.

And so, why the heading to this piece?  What is all this talk about unity and division?  It is simply this! All of the negotiating regarding changes to the hated and diabolical AGFS alterations were carried out by members of the Bar.  That’s right, not solicitors, not solicitors and barristers working hand in hand, but members of the Bar.

Of course, when it came to taking action solicitors were right there not so much side by side as leading the charge.  They were easily identifiable.  They were from named firms.  They could be reported to the SRA.  They weren’t able to hide behind their clerks or their individual choices as self-employed professionals.  When, however, it came to sitting at the negotiating table, having meetings in smoked filled rooms, stalking the corridors of power, only one half of the profession were present.  There was no unity.  There was no sense of being “united”.  And now, viewed from the autumn end of the telescope it can only be concluded that those who chose to go into battle alone did indeed fall divided and unsuccessful.

Were the representatives of the solicitors half the profession in some way frightened?  Was there an unexpected timidity on their part?  Were they too busy looking after their members’ interests in the teeth of a ferocious SRA, stoked up by members of the judiciary who themselves came from the ranks of the Bar?  No, none of the above were true.  They simply weren’t invited.  The Bar simply chose to have covert cosy meetings with the MOJ without us.

What then for the future?  As new calls ring out for strike action, refusing new work, no returns!  The solicitors have to consider whether they should again go through the humiliating sham of being called to arms only to be left in the slit trenches; or whether they should simply say from the start that the only ally is one that you can trust and with the benefit of experience, there really don’t seem to be many of them around!

SHOUTING INTO THE VOID

Written by admin
September 6th, 2018

As more and more HCAs plough their trade in the Crown Court it is apparent that the scope for feedback is relatively limited.

Historically, judges have been able to pass comment, both favourable or otherwise, on the performance and progress of advocates in the hope that those comments will prove useful to the advocate and in time to the court.

The means of transmission of information has either been through the Clerk to Chambers or, perhaps through the Head of Chambers.  Many judges have either come from the Chambers in question or had close links with members of Chambers during their careers at the Bar.

Unfortunately, no clear channel exists for the sort of feedback, that can be oh so helpful, to reach the ears of HCAs.  The only circumstances in which judges make contact with HCAs seem to be where there has been a problem and they are asking for a written explanation as to how it has occurred.

The establishment of some sort of forum, in each area, be it formal or informal, to facilitate the feeding back of worthwhile comments is something from which many HCAs might benefit.

The appointment of more HCA judges may mean that this process is put in place sooner rather than later.  There are of course a great many judges, who have had successful careers at the Bar, who would be only too willing to involve themselves in such a process, were it to be readily available.

THE MATHS ADD UP FOR LOONY LISTING

Written by Sian Hall
March 27th, 2018

Few can truly doubt the integrity of Crown Court Listing Departments throughout the country. Certainly, Crown Courts in Nottingham, Sheffield, Derby, Lincoln, and Grimsby all bear the hallmarks of hardworking teams of people with a good understanding trying to do their best for everyone.

Nevertheless, the fact that listing is a problem is something that cannot be doubted. This week, on one day, the firm had six trials, all removed from the list at less than 48 hours’ notice. There was undoubtedly good reason for this. The courts in which the cases were due to be heard were busy indeed throughout the rest of the week. With one exception, all of the cases went off to new trial dates in August.

In spite of howls of derision from the profession, the MOJ have stoically refused to do anything about the problem. There is scope to agree to further judge sitting days! There is scope to designate empty Magistrates’ Court facilities as temporary Crown Courts. Sadly, both of the above require extra funding.

It is not just that extra funding hits the MOJ’s current budget. In reality, there is a twofold gain for the Ministry. By not spending money on judges and extra courtrooms, they avoid unintended and unexpected expense. By ensuring that cases are adjourned for a period of four to five months equally ensure that the bills to be submitted by advocates and litigators for those matters fall into the next financial year. Indeed, there is also the third potential benefit of complainants or defendants losing the will to fight, or cases being side-tracked by new charges or new proceedings, which can lead to extra savings as trials fail to take place at all.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that delay and adjournments are the sole brothers and sisters of a financially hamstrung Ministry of Justice.

SARAH BROWN IS BACK IN TOWN!

Written by Sian Hall
February 13th, 2018

We are delighted to welcome Sarah Brown to our Sheffield office. A skilled advocate in both the Magistrates’ Court and Crown Court, Sarah has kindly agreed to augment our Sheffield office two days each week, whilst continuing to teach law and practice at Sheffield College.

The combination of practical fee-earning work and the understanding that comes with the need to impart knowledge to others, will benefit both the firm and Sarah’s students alike.

We are looking forward to the benefits that are bound to come from bringing somebody on board who has a wealth of experience and an independent and critical eye. Inevitably, benefits will not just flow to students and to members of staff, there is bound to be a real dividend for our growing Sheffield client base.

NOTHING MEEK ABOUT THE NEW FORCE IN CHESTERFIELD

Written by Sian Hall
February 1st, 2018

On 15th January 2018, after almost ten years with the firm, Karl Meakin stepped out on his own account in the Magistrates’ Court.  An experienced prison lawyer, Karl is now strengthening the team of Chesterfield advocates comprised of Bob Sowter, Kirsty Sargent, and the inestimable John Wilford.

Karl will also be continuing to carrying on preparation and advocacy work for the Prison Law Team throughout the country.

The Chesterfield advocates are ably backed up by Richard Pell, Lucy Hooper, Yasmin James-Birch, and Lynda Gilbert.

With John’s added qualities as a regulatory specialist, the team has not only depth but considerable breadth.

Bob Sowter brings with him not only massive expertise in terms of adult and youth crime, but also a history of work carried out on behalf of the road haulage sector, which has ably equipped him to deal with a broader than average range of road traffic and vehicle related issues.

The remarkable Kirsty Sargent is the beating heart of the team, an excellent advocate and a superb organiser and administrator.

Karl could hardly be joining a finer group of lawyers who should ease him to greatness at an early stage.

VULNERABLE WITNESSES! TRAINED AND TESTED

Written by Sian Hall
November 17th, 2017

The Johnson Partnership’s HCA (Higher Court Advocate)  team must be one of the first in the country to have all received their vulnerable witness training.

 

The extensive course, which requires preparation and submission of written material seven days before the court is held, a full participatory workshop, and follow-up viewing is designed to equip advocates to deal with vulnerable witnesses in a humane, efficient, and just way.

 

The preparation of carefully crafted written questions, to be submitted to the court at a Ground Rules Hearing, is for many still a relatively new skill.

 

With the roll out of Section 28 cross-examination of witnesses in the New Year, it is highly likely that only advocates who have received the vulnerable witness training are going to be able to deal with cases of this sort.

 

HCA’s from The Johnson Partnership’s Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby Higher Rights advocate teams have all been fully trained to conduct cases involving vulnerable witnesses in the most appropriate way from day one.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PRISON DEATHS?

Written by Sian Hall
November 10th, 2017

On the day where Nottingham Prison announces that five inmates have died during the course of the last three months and when the governor of Liverpool jail has been removed forthwith, the question of prison conditions and particularly deaths in prison is a live one.

 

Recently, Frances Crook of the Howard League for Penal Reform, called for the Probation Service and CCRCs to be involved in reviews whenever a prisoner who has been known to either of the branches of the probation service prior to their admission to prison, takes their life.

 

Many advocates shrink from saying to the Court that they believe the client is in imminent danger if admitted to custody. Many regard it as bad fall and rather cheap; others believe it is wrong to be seen to be holding a gun to the head of the Court.

 

All of our advocates have been trained to bring sensitive and delicate information to the attention of the court in an appropriate and reasoned fashion. Everyone is taught how to bring mitigation together in a way that should, if at all possible, avoid a vulnerable client ever being sent into custody.

 

Where a Court takes a decision to remand or sentence to custody our advocates are trained to ensure that the right information is passed as quickly as possible to the relevant authorities within the prison to ensure that the prison staff can give timely and appropriate care. Sadly, all we can ever do is provide this information, there can be no say in what those in charge will do with it.  By keeping a record of those to whom we have spoken and the information that has been provided to them, we aim to be in a position to ensure that any reviewing body is able to have a real and proper understanding of what was known by whom at what time.

 

 

ANDREW SWABY “THE BIG MAN” COMES TO JOHNSONS

Written by Sian Hall
July 17th, 2017

In July we are delighted to announce that we will be welcoming Andrew Swaby to The Johnson Partnership. A giant of both the Crown and Magistrates’ Courts, Andrew is here to lend added presence to our advocacy team.

 

A man who is as happy at Shepcote Lane Police Station as he is in the Court of Appeal, Andrew will be joining our Sheffield office team at 620 Attercliffe Road.

 

As one of the best known advocates in Sheffield, we suspect that Andrew will bring with him his own Pied Piper following. We hope that Andrew and all who come with him will approve of the change and feel happy as part of a brand new scene.

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