Do sod off Mr. Grayling

Chris Grayling said the Government should not always be paying for the most senior QCs to defend suspected criminals when cheaper junior lawyers could do the job just as well.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four\’s Today programme, he said the £1 billion legal aid bill spent on criminal cases is too high when budgets are being cut across the Government.

\”If you look at the daily rate for a senior QC it can be between £1300 and £2,000. For somebody who\’s going to become a QC in a month\’s time, it\’s just over half that amount,\” he said.

\”The question is can we really afford so often to use people who are paid such an additional higher rate compared with somebody\’s who\’s nearly as experienced, who\’s a seriously competent barrister, who will become a QC one day if they choose to do so.

You\’re aiming to take the liberty of the person you\’re prosecuting. Yes, you do need to pay for the lawyer to defend that person.

End of.

Whinging about how much it all costs: there are two things the nation state is meant to do. Defend the country and provide a court and justice system. Those are the two pre-requisites. Everything else it does is subordinate to these two. So if you\’ve not got enough money to do these two then you\’d better just stop doing some of the others to pay for these two.

23 thoughts on “Do sod off Mr. Grayling”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    You’re aiming to take the liberty of the person you’re prosecuting. Yes, you do need to pay for the lawyer to defend that person.

    Well perhaps. But, I don’t want to belabour the obvious, there are only so many top flight QCs to go around. The Junior ones have to defend some people and the Senior ones have to defend some other people. The time of the best has to be rationed in some way.

    So how is that going to work?

    Do we have a lottery where if you’re lucky you get a half decent guy with a bit of experience, but if you’re not you get some lush or the work experience boy? Do we allow the state to out bid every other private victim who does not get Legal Aid so that the poorest criminals get the best beaks?

    Or do we, assuming for a minute this is a sane government policy, stop allowing criminals to choose their own representatives, and instead assign a lawyer based on the gravity of offense, so we pay through the nose for someone accused of murder, but we don’t for someone who has not paid their TV licence?

  2. I like the suggestion SMFS puts forward. So long as we can still get rid of a whole shed load of five-a-day coordinators and diversity consultants to pay for it!

  3. Perhaps if the number of laws were reduced, we wouldn’t need £2,000-a-day lawyers at all. Forget health or education: our legal system is in the greatest need of reform.

  4. Expensive lawyers – fine. But you only get to use Legal Aid once in your life. Get hauled up again – pay for your own defence.

  5. So Much For Subtlety

    boy on a bike – “Expensive lawyers – fine. But you only get to use Legal Aid once in your life. Get hauled up again – pay for your own defence.”

    How about allowing people to choose whichever lawyer they want. But if they get convicted, they will serve an extra year for every 10,000 pounds in legal fees they have cost the public?

    Legal aid is a great little earner for the legal profession. They get to vacuum our wallets directly in the name of justice that they are making ever more complex and drawn out. The best solution is still to make the legal profession as a whole pay for Legal Aid. Make it a condition of their licence that they have to do a certain number of hours of pro bono work every year.

  6. “he said the £1 billion legal aid bill spent on criminal cases is too high when budgets are being cut across the Government”

    Except the DFID, of course, which gets £3-£4 billion more, which we’ll have to borrow to give away.

  7. They harrass and prosecute more people every year for “offences” that are often not crimes by any stretch of the imagination. The state (esp in the USA but over here too) writes laws in a deliberately vague way so you don’t know if you have broken a law and they can come after you for more and more of your actions every year. The US Federal Tyranny is also fond of removing the whole “criminal intent” thing out of the law so even innocent mistakes can be punished as savagely as possible–witness the recent suicide of computer hawker Arron Swartz threatened with 30 years in some US shithole for what was a prank done to illuminate a point about computer security/paranoia.In no way should anything that helps people against the antics of the state be cut back–cut the handouts and pet projects of the political scum. Windmill money and the price of high speed trains would keep Legal Aid going a good long time.

  8. Plenty of junior counsel are choosing not to attempt to take silk because the work is already not there, and it’s better to be a busy junior than an idle QC.

    Added to which, it pains me to say it but silks these days often appear to be chosen not for their ability but because of their credentials vis a vis diversity, and as a result it does not by any means guarantee success to be represented by a silk against a good junior.

    Interview panels: six hours on how you showed your skills in dealing with cases involving race or gender, and a quick 15 minutes on how you forensically demolished a prosecution (or defence) case.

    (Perhaps something had to be done to replace the old ‘I was at school with his father’ system, but what they have done was not it.)

  9. Perhaps something had to be done to replace the old ‘I was at school with his father’ system, but what they have done was not it.

    Well yes, they’ve replaced it with “I wasn’t at school with her father.” What happens next time round, though, is anyone’s guess. Either we end up with a new nepotism or we go back to the old lot, presumably.

  10. Sam – yes.

    The obvious (though not perfect, nothing is) way to do it would be to do away with panels and use anonymous scored questionnaires and trial results over a period of (say) 10 years.

    If candidate A loses 40% of cases and is bollocked by a judge twice a year, she or he would seem to be a worse option than candidate B who wins 60% of cases and has a spotless record.

  11. Hmm. Agree with a lot of what you say Tim except this article. Speaking as a Barrister there is little issue with what is being said here. The top end of the junior bar (not inexperienced, merely means not a QC) are often exceptional advocates. There are many instances where having a silk on your legal team is simply not necessary. The QC really does need to be used in particular cases where they have a specialty. The vast majority (probably upwards of 95% of cases) can manage perfectly well without a silk.

    There is no reason whatsoever that would lead to a good senior junior not being able to defend or prosecute even the most serious of murders, robberies, GBH, etc.

  12. What about those who do not qualify for legal aid but nevertheless could never afford the top QCs?

    I imagine this covers most of the population.

    Unless of course everyone gets legal aid in criminal cases; I am no expert (being neither a criminal or a lawyer).

  13. Rob, yes you can get legal aid for criminal cases (though I don’t know how it is decided how grand a legal team you get). As above somewhere , “junior” barrister just means not QC. Plenty of able barristers don’t make it to silk, and even those who do usually make it in their 40s or later.

    Someone mentioned pro bono above. When you’re accused of murder, do you really want to be presented by a conveyancer “doing his bit”?

  14. JamesV ‘Isn’t losing 40% of cases the same as winning 60%?’

    Ha – I meant ‘wins 40%’ (though ‘winning’ in itself can be hard to define, and is slightly infra dig).

    Rob, James – as others have said, the silk thing is a little bit of a red herring. There are terrible silks and very good juniors (a ‘junior’ can be really excellent and in his or her 60s, it just means ‘not silk’).

  15. Luke, I’m assuming whoever made that suggestion wasn’t talking about murder trials, but then I suppose, too, that your point holds whatever the indictment.

  16. I never thought the day would come when I disagreed with you. When we are overspending everywhere then cutting spending must be done everywhere. If we act like a banana republic then the citizens will get a banana republics level of services.

  17. how much does Rumpole cost? Should habitual offenders get continual assisted access to Rumpole? I think there needs to be some kind of control on this, such as access to one Rumpole every 10 years or something. Tim’s purist view needs amendment, I submit.

  18. “Legal aid is a great little earner for the legal profession”

    Bollocks on stilts, revealing only embarrassing sackfuls of ignorance. Many and perhaps most criminal barristers struggle to earn more than tube drivers (without the attendant perqs of employment), and criminal solicitors are closing down left, right and c. Furthermore, more than 3000 new ‘offences’ hitherto unknown to man were added to the statute books between 1997 and 2010. Ahmed Criminal and his aiders and abettors in the political class get a very, very good deal; we are subsidising the taxpayer, not the other way around. The result is the death by a thousand cuts of my profession: 18 months ago, I prosecuted a stabbing which left a young man mostly blind in one eye. Two defendants, 10 day trial. Cretinous judge (whose behaviour may well have resulted in the wrongful acquittal of one defendant), one shifty (at best) opponent. To say the public got its pound of flesh from me would be an understatement. I was paid about £2,900 inc. VAT for that case, including for a good three days’ prep. £223 a day, inclusive of VAT. They are plasterers in London who earn that. You, SMFS, can take a running jump.

    Most silks do not earn anything like the sums Grayling is bandying around. And bear in mind, if on rare occasions some earn close to £2k a day (and it would be very, very rare), they’re not doing it five days a week, every working day of the year. I’d be surprised if there are now more than 30 criminal Silks earning over £150k a year. But of course the government annually publishes the list of top earners, those who’ve spent months, if not years, prepping for a single colossal case, and waited all that time to be paid, and idiots react like that’s indicative. And even if it were, there probably isn’t one person in ten thousand who is capable of doing the work well. But do the laws of supply and demand operate? To ask the question is to know the answer.

    Today’s foolish and malevolent caricatures of criminal barristers’ earnings were true, once. 20 years ago. Time to play catch-up, guys. We is being downgraded. I don’t care if you don’t care, but know whereof you speak before ejaculating these wildly ignorant claims.

    Personally, I’d get rid of Legal Aid. I see no reason why Ahmed Criminal’s purported right to my services free at the point of demand takes precedence over my right to sell my labour at whatever rate I can get for it. Anyone who argues to the contrary might do well to consider Kip Esquire’s law, and whether they would appreciate the same principle being applied to their earning of the daily crust.

    Other points:

    1) many defendants would receive a more sympathetic hearing from the jury if they were unrepresented.

    2) Legal Aid, as with all welfare, encourages bad behaviour: knowing you won’t have to foot the bill for your defence if Knacker feels your collar is one less thing to worry about if you’re tempted to make a poor life choice.

    3) Silks are a closed shop within a closed shop. And yes, they are increasingly appointed in order that various multiculti boxes can be ticked. And yes, many leading juniors can do precisely what they do every bit as well.

    4) The entire legal system of England and Wales is now subject to what I believe is called ‘producer capture’; it’s run for the benefit of the system itself (I don’t mean practitioners, I mean the court service and the Lord Chancellor’s department, or whatever they’re calling it this week). That includes much civil law, the small claims stuff at least. Moronic demands to control costs are at the root of this. Here’s news: things cost what they cost. Those costs don’t go away because pols say they should, and legislate for same. What happens is, the costs find an out in other ways.

  19. @Edward Lud ‘I was paid about £2,900 inc. VAT for that case, including for a good three days’ prep. £223 a day, inclusive of VAT. They are plasterers in London who earn that. You, SMFS, can take a running jump.’

    Don’t forget (as I’m sure you won’t, Edward) that Chambers rent, travel, eating and accomodation expenses and any other disbursements (courses, books) comes out of that – and that barristers’ holidays are unpaid.

    My brother in law is a very senior prosecution-only barrister who is just about to take silk (assuming that he passed the various hoops which people mentioned above, and which have seen people wholly inferior to him – he says, but he’s a very honest and modest man – promoted ahead of him).

    Eight or nine years ago, he was earning £300,000 a year, which I thought excessive (even allowing for the fact that all the above expenses, plus VAT and tax, had to come out of it).

    These days, he makes around £120,000. OK, it’s still not a bad screw compoared to some, but I absolutely guarantee you most of those ‘some’ don’t work aything like as hard as he does.

    The cases he gets – they’re often many binder files thick, and he will spend literally hundreds of hours working on them – often all night in the run up to and during a case.

    He’s aged before my eyes, and is actively considering leaving the profession if he doesn’t make QC – and even if he does.

    Or progressing with his nice, safe judicial carrer – he’s currently a part-time recorder – which will give him £100,000-odd a year, plus a pension and none (or less) of the grief.

    My sister is in a similar boat and I know lots of barristers like them; a decade ago, none of them moaned, now they all do. And I don’t think it’s squealing.

    It worries me. Like so many othner things, it could run well if other part of government expenditure – principally benefits, the NHS, the ‘education’ system and general bureaucracy – were made to pay their way.

  20. @Edward Lud, on representation,

    The couple of times I’ve been in court (never as accused) I always ended up feeling I could have done a better job without the lawyer present. The last one was a civil case here in Germany, where I was suing some bastard. My lawyer strongarmed me into accepting a deal because the judge was wibbling about some point of contract law. Subsequent research showed that the wibble was almost certainly incorrect and we could have objected to the judge’s view, and continued to pursue the case. By then of course it was too late.

    My view is the lawyer is there specifically to help you as layman with those points of the law. Those points of the law (and knowledge of supporting case law) should be at the lawyer’s fingertips to discuss with their clients during the 10 minute recess you are given to consider the opponent’s peace offering. The details of the case are best known to the client, the lawyer is there to provide the knowledge of the law.

    Unfortunately in that instance, I had to have a lawyer because representation is obligatory in cases over €5000 here. Now that really is a racket.

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