Criminal legal aid reform consultation – Judicial Review Judgement

On behalf of the SAHCA Committee and membership I am delighted at the judgement of Burnett J in the High Court last week.
The fulcrum of the issue was “procedural fairness.” It was in respect of this fundamental canon of efficacy that the Justice Secretary was found wanting.
I remember clearly back in 1977 when Lord Denning so robustly chastised Sam Silkin QC, the Attorney General, with the 300 year old words of Thomas Fuller: “Be you never so high. The law is above you.”
I am afraid that this remains the battleground for all of us who care so passionately to ensure that the weak, the disadvantaged and those simply trampled upon by an establishment juggernaut have a coherent voice to make their case.
Mercifully, in this case it seems that “unseen in the background, Fate was quietly slipping lead into the boxing glove.”
If this judgement provides Mr. Grayling and his team time to reflect I hope the conclusion will be that “fairness” of any kind is not achieved by a juggernaut. It can only come about by proper meaningful discussion with participants of parity.
Those of us engaged at the coalface of the criminal justice system know it better than anyone. We know that it simply has to work or our Society falls apart.
SAHCA is willing to play its part in any discussions to assist in the improvements we all know are necessary to evolve our system – provided the government is willing to listen and act accordingly. We do not want to dictate nor do we want to be dictated to. We want to participate in proper meaningful discussion to forge a way ahead that maintains client choice and prevents the irreparable haemorrhaging of the dedicated talent that thankfully still remains.

Shawn Williams
23 September 2014