Posts Tagged ‘ Counsel ’


NO MORE AA AT JP’S

Written by admin
August 30th, 2019

For some the letters AA will always conjure up memories of motorbiking repairmen who would salute whenever they saw a car with the Automobile Association badge.  For others AA will conjure up the mysterious world of the recovering alcoholic.  For those of us who have worked at or with the staff from The Johnson Partnership’s Barnsley office, AA will forever be Amanda Armitage.

Amanda Armitage first worked with our colleague Eric Bray over twenty years ago.  Eric took her under his wing and helped her to become one of the most respected Crown Court litigators in South Yorkshire.

Colleagues, Counsel, clients and friends have all spoken of Amanda’s sharp-eyed insight and down to earth practical skill.  No-one saw more clearly, no-one understood better.

We are sad to say that Amanda has decided to step away from the law to spend time with her family.  Our loss is their gain, but we could never begrudge the unquestionable delight of spending more time in the company of one of our favourite folk.

We wish you good luck in all that you do Amanda and hope you won’t forget us.

DEATH BY ONE AND A HALF THOUSAND CUTS

Written by admin
August 17th, 2019

The latest stealthy slice to be taken out of the criminal justice system comes in the form of a reduction of Crown Court hearing days.

We all know that to run a Crown Court is expensive.  We all know that to close a Crown Court will save money.  Unfortunately, closing a Crown Court means that cases are not heard, which has very little cost in financial terms but often huge costs in terms of the effect on defendants, complainants and witnesses, their emotions and their general wellbeing. It also means of course that neither Counsel nor solicitors are in a position to submit a bill, because a hearing has been postponed and the case has not been finished.  In some courts this means that the case will have to be put off for another eight or nine months, awaiting a trial slot. This inevitably means that the expense of prosecuting the case and defending it is moved skilfully into another tax year.

How many Crown Court hearing days do you think have been cut from the next Crown Court year?  Perhaps you think 1,000, or maybe 2,000, maybe as many as 5,000 – but surely not as that would obviously be unjust.  Perhaps you think 7,500 or even 10,000, but yet again, surely both of those figures are utterly unbelievable.  If you were to think 15,000, in short, you would be right.  Yes, 15,000 Crown Court hearing days have been cut from the next judicial year.

That’s 15,000 days when cases could be concluded, when witnesses could be put out of their misery, when complainants could get closure, when defendants could move on with their lives, be it in custody or as free people.  That’s 15,000 days when rehabilitation might have started or punishment might have been meted out.  Thanks to the Ministry of Justice and arguably the Treasury, all of these things have to be put on hold, whilst money is lavished on health, police, the armed forces, and who knows what else.

FUNNY HOW ONE LITTLE WORD CAN LEAD TO A SENTENCE!

Written by admin
March 18th, 2019

Yet again today I had the unfortunate experience of sitting in a Crown Court watching a client, who obviously thought that he had done a good deal, and discovering that the deal in question had unexpected consequences.

Without naming the individual or even the court, the story involves a man charged with assault, damage and theft. The offences were alleged in a domestic context and it seemed clear that until today they had been vehemently denied.

Those representing the individual had blatantly negotiated on his behalf with the Crown Prosecution Service that they would discontinue an assault and a theft if he pleaded to a criminal damage. The client, having received only who knows what advice, plainly decided that the deal on offer was good and would bring matters to a swift conclusion.

Unfortunately, nobody seemed to have reminded the defendant that it wasn’t just a question of him saying the word “guilty” and walking away. When he pleaded “guilty” there was inevitably going to have to be some sort of consequence.

In this particular case, the damage amounted to some many hundreds of pounds and involved items of a sentimental nature. The court decided that the defendant ought in fact to receive a custodial sentence, albeit that that sentence could be suspended. The suspended sentence was to be accompanied by some unpaid work and a short curfew. The suspended term, the unpaid work, and the curfew, all plainly came as some sort of surprise to the man in the dock, who it seemed believed that he would be thanked for his trouble and given his taxi fare home having done the decent thing and allowed the case to be brought to an end.

I was left to reflect just how many defendants, when reaching a compromise with the Crown Prosecution Service, actually forget that they will then still have to be sentenced in some way for the matters that they are actually admitting. Equally, I wonder how many solicitors or learned counsel take the trouble to remind their clients of the effect that their guilty pleas may have on them in the future. It is not just a question of them having a criminal record rather than not, but also that criminal record may affect employment prospects, credit ratings, an ability to travel to certain countries, and their standing with social services and adoption agencies, to mention just a few.

Make sure that if you are doing any sort of deals your lawyers take the trouble to explain to you in the detail that our lawyers would about the consequences of any “deals” that you may choose to enter into.

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!

GET ON THE FRONT FOOT FOR A TRAINING DAY

Written by Sian Hall
March 20th, 2018

Two or three times a year the Crown Courts on each circuit close for a judicial training day. Judges from that circuit will gather together in order to be updated on everything from new developments in the law to changes in sentencing practice.

In reality, this means that almost no work is dealt with in the Crown Court on the days in question. Huge numbers of counsel, solicitors, and clerks find themselves with unexpected time on their hands.

Unfortunately, for the CPS, expert witnesses, police officers, and prison staff this bonus time tends to result in a deluge of phone calls and emails. Solicitors and clerks have the chance to chase up old enquiries that have not been answered, make new requests, book visits for weeks in advance, and raise issues on fully or partially written reports.

In short, many involved in the Crown Court process have come to regard training days as something they have to gear up for with a sense of dread, rather than, as was once the case, regarding them as a day for rest and reflection with feet on the desk.

JIMMY BECK GOES UNDERGROUND

Written by Sian Hall
November 2nd, 2017

On 4th October 2017 an exclusive basement party in a renowned Nottingham restaurant was held to celebrate the 70th birthday of James Harrison Beck.

 

With Judges, QC’s, leading and junior counsel, solicitors, trainees, and clerks from within the firm and beyond, the guest list truly sparkled.

 

When Jimmy founded The Johnson Partnership’s Higher Rights team in April 2002 he was one of the very few members of the Bar to work in-house with a firm of Defence solicitors. Since that time he has suggested and helped us grow a substantial and successful White Collar Department as well as one of the most highly regarded teams of in-house advocates in the country.

 

All of this of course follows on a glittering career at the Independent Bar as well as huge success elsewhere within the Metropolitan area.

 

It was lovely to be able to spend an evening with Jimmy, Val, and so many close friends who were prepared to step out and party even though it was officially a school night!

 

Happy Birthday Jim! As you would say, “Whatever would we do without you!”

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