Name: NICK ROSS
Firm: Russell & Russell Solicitors LLP
Area of Practice: Crime
Year Obtained Higher Rights: 2005
SAHCA Member since: 2005
What made you become a SAHCA Committee Member?
In an attempt to represent the much maligned Criminal HCA – my desire to make a difference as a passionate and experienced advocate and to share my experiences within the committee and on behalf of the membership.
What aspect of advocacy do you find most rewarding?
After 32 years+ PQE, people comment that I still show a true enthusiasm and enjoyment in my role as a defence advocate, whether in the lower courts, or predominantly over the last 10 years in the Crown Court. The rare forays into the COURT of APPEAL Criminal Division are particularly challenging but amazingly rewarding. Being complimented on my submissions/speeches whether by fellow advocates, judges, or even clients is still very satisfying.
What do you consider the biggest challenge facing Solicitor Advocates in 2019?
As well as being an advocate for the appropriate recognition of HCAs practising in the CROWN COURT, in respect of which my overall view is that we as a body of professional advocates are now acknowledged by most of the judiciary as playing a positive role, the other as yet unresolved challenge is the thorny issue of fees. It is clearly the case that successive governments have treated Legal Aid lawyers very poorly, especially those fulfilling a very responsible and skilful role i.e. criminal advocates, in reality for the best part of the last two decades. In what other line of work do you have to rely upon your opponent to certify what you have done – nailing down confirmation of pages of evidence; and then if and when confirmed, you then have to argue that the certified page count actually was justified and not irrelevant “electronic evidence”, resulting in massive downward assessment? Sometimes, our paymasters may authorise a claim, and then weeks later perform a U-turn, whereupon they decide the payment was too generous, and then they inflict a recoupment. Imagine being a builder, you do the job, receive the X thousand pound payment, but then a few weeks later the customer decides…………………” ah well actually I think I overpaid you”, and the customer dips into your business bank account, with a magical power of securing a refund which hasn’t even been agreed!!! Is it any wonder that in the criminal courts, the average age of defence advocates is somewhere around my advanced years -57? So there certainly are enormous challenges for the defence community which if mistreated for much longer will end up so neglected and decimated that the fantastic and globally admired publicly funded defence legal system in this country will fall off the proverbial cliff. Together with pressures on courts, the police and the prosecution, the criminal justice system is already close to breaking point and the cliff-edge looms ever closer.
Despite these challenges, I remain a committed and enthusiastic advocate with a strong belief that every accused person is entitled to good quality representation.