Stalemate. Well so it seems at present. The CBA openly consulting the criminal bar on the next steps, whilst one Minister’s door is said to be always open to the same constituency. But no breakthrough, let alone resolution. All of which raises the future timetable up to the election. Look at it dispassionately from both sides. First then the ability of the criminal bar to stay united and increasingly strapped for a period of over a year. Let me assume a continuation of no returns and a refusal to accept the new rates when they come on stream. I will not factor in Direct Action to the point of closing the system down, because I refuse to accept that as a profession we could be so bloody stupid or irresponsible. But the other two factors are powerful enough in their own right and might well be in play for over a year. Now the hard question is whether we could afford it. My best guess is that we might seek to do so for up to 8 months maximum from today. After that, putting food on the table will predominate all other considerations. Others would see that as an overestimate. In any event, that leaves a bitter and angry profession for some months up to the election, disinclined to tick a Conservative or Liberal box when it comes. Now look at the MOJ, as part of course of a Government already predicting cuts beyond the next election. In the short term, by which I mean up to six months, they hold most of the cards. They can dig in their heels, refuge to budge from the final offer, so bringing the cuts on stream exactly as promised. But at some point probably before that six months and certainly within a year, a huge and cataclysmic public reaction will hit them. The Courts will still be operating but at a rate so diminished as to be risible. Long delays will be public knowledge and victims of very serious crimes will be further months from Justice. At which point The Times will thunder and The Mail shriek – get your act together and start talking. Regular readers will know what comes next. Why not start the process NOW? Now before insane militancy totally distorts the picture and men have lost their reason. Nigel Pascoe QC .

Post Script. One peace initiative would be for the CBA to pick a calm sensible criminal silk with a completely open brief to approach the LC or Minister directly to consider amelioration of the present position. Specifically such an individual could discuss a number of specific present injustices and how they could be addressed by further negotiation.

A second initiative could be taken by The Lord Chancellor without prejudice to his present position. After consulting with the LCJ, he could invite a well respected retired Judge to consult both sides of the profession
1) to address specific injustices
2) to consider the viability of specific alternative reforms to allow future amelioration of decided cuts.

Or he could appoint a small committee of three, eg retired Judge, senior Solicitor and distinguished lay member for the same purpose.

Further the Council of Circuit Judges could consider a careful statement of the effect on the running of the Courts of the policy of No Returns. Such a statement without taking sides could contribute to the resolution of the present position.


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