You may be planning to join colleagues at the Bar in a National Day of Protest against criminal legal aid cuts on the 7th March. Events have been planned throughout the country. What is SAHCA’s position? Like other organisations such as CBA, CLSA, LAPG and LCCSA we don’t take a formal position but speaking personally I believe that it is very important that the view of SAHCA members should be heard at those events and that the solidarity of our members with their barrister colleagues should be clear to all. I would ask each and every one of our members to encourage your colleagues, your partners and your staff to attend one or more of these events.
In London, for instance, there will be a meeting at 10:00 at The Old Palace Yard, Westminster (if you can get there for 9.15 photo call please try to). Speakers include: Ian Lawrence, Janis Sharpe, Shami Chakrabati, Sadiq Khan, Sir Ivan Lawrence and many more. At 11:30 some of our London members will join with LCCSA colleagues in marching to MOJ , via Lib Dem HQ. At 13:00 there will be a training event at Central Westminster Hall. There will be presentations from Richard Atkinson of the Law Society and Richard Furlong of CBA, followed by a panel of experts for question time. The session carries 3 CPD points available and costs just £10 plus a small booking fee. Tickets are selling fast so please click here to secure your place.
I emphasise that SAHCA members have played a significant role in engaging with government over its plans for legal aid, both through consultation responses and more directly. We will never stop doing so, but we are utterly dismayed by recent announcements. It seems to us that Government has closed its ears, for the time being, to constructive engagement.
Protocol for 7th March 2014
It is of course a matter for each individual solicitor to decide whether he or she wishes to attend Court on 7th March 2014. Set out below is a non-binding protocol to ensure that there is minimum inconvenience to the Courts and to clients.
- Those who decide to attend training and other events on 7th March 2014 should give notice of their unavailability.
- If you are already engaged in a case that is listed for that day but do not wish to attend you should: -
- a. Write to your client (making it clear that the obligation on the client to attend court is unaffected)
- Ensure that you notify the court that you are not attending court that day.
- You should do this immediately so that you will have given the court maximum notice.
- If you do not have a fixed case that day, and intend not to attend court that day, then you may want to inform the local court that you will be unavailable that day. You may wish to avoid listing or adjourning hearings to the 7th March.
- Some cases that day may be particularly sensitive and simply cannot be moved. These though will be rare. If you are in a case involving the young or vulnerable and the court will not accommodate the case being moved then you should attend on the 7th March 2014.
- There will of course be a Duty Solicitor in attendance at the court who will be able to advise and assist those Defendants who are not already represented by their own solicitors. He or she will not be able to act as agent.
Pro forma letter
The following may be used as a pro forma letter to send to your local Court:
We act for the above client whose case is listed for trial/(other reason) on the above date.
We wish to apply to vacate this trial/hearing and relist it on a day other than 7th March and we ask that you list the matter for such an application to be made, unless you agree it can be dealt with administratively.
A training day has been organised for the profession with the intention of collecting as much information as possible for The Law Society to better understand the problems that will need to be addressed following the publication by the MoJ of their reply to the responses they received to the latest consultation. This is considered very important for the future of the Criminal Justice System and therefore the subject matter of that training day is crucially important to us and to our colleagues and we must attend. Training will also be provided by The Law Society.
We have been unable to give a greater period of notice due to the dynamic nature of discussions between our professional body and the Ministry of Justice.
We very much regret any inconvenience caused but hope that this letter will allow sufficient time to manage the rescheduling of this case and minimise any inconvenience.
We appreciate that there may be Defendants appearing for the first time on 7th March, both in custody and on bail. We anticipate that a Duty Solicitor will be at Court to assist those clients who do not already have representation.
We understand that the CBA is also supporting a No Returns policy for the month of March. Once again, individual solicitors will consider for themselves whether to take returns during this period. I am not proposing to do so personally – you will take your own course.
Shawn Williams Chair SAHCA