Pause for Thought

Thinking beyond the ballot needs cautious language and a keen appreciation that there are some honorable and very disappointed participants. Unity is not an automatic consequence, as a very few bitter tweets have made clear. Best to think of the most realistic tactics at this moment in time. First I want to repeat a suggestion made already for a constructive brainstorming meeting or series of meetings going beyond the leadership of the Circuits and the CBA, but which of course they should organize. The agenda would be – What Now? The whole point is to look forward and promote reform from the precise position we are in at this moment. Ideas can be taken back to formulate a policy around which real unity may emerge.

Then solicitors doing legal aid crime. It has provoked an anguished response from both sides. Here the bar needs to learn a lesson. We cannot oversee the independent structures of our colleagues or paper over all the differences between us. But we CAN and should support in a coherent and effective way the very specific injustices which remain. A classic example is the sum payable for attendance at a police station. We can do that in all the conventional ways open to us in a democratic society, including publicizing specific examples, known to us as practitioners, of immensely important representation by our colleagues at that stage in the process. We can canvass for change. To that extent, the real unity which has been created can continue. But short of fusion, which would not be in the public interest, we must put our own house in order. That is not retrenchment, but common sense. I also believe that the majority of legal aid practitioners will not blame the bar for accepting pragmatically the reasons for voting No. We can work in harmony again, recognising the limits we possess to help each other.

Third. I echo the very responsible words of those voting both ways that we cannot undermine our elected representatives any more. Our Leaders have served us superbly in very difficult and unexpected circumstances. Fourth and frankly just as important, we need a moratorium on personal abuse of The Lord Chancellor. I will admit to having been shocked when very able and senior colleagues and even friends have completely lost their heads in the savagery of their personal abuse. What sort of example is that to young advocates in whom we inculcate the absurdity of personal abuse when you seek to persuade? That can be distinguished entirely from the strongest critical analysis of policy. Last, the opportunity we still have to tackle specific, obvious and undeniable fee injustices. Surely these can be collated and agreed in the very meetings I have suggested above, if not in another way. This profession is not finished and long term may have reinvigorated itself magnificently.
Nigel Pascoe QC


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