Obiter was privileged to be among the guests at the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association annual dinner, aka the Tout’s Ball. It’s the occasion at which, in the words of guest speaker Jim Sturman QC, barristers ‘suck up’ to solicitors to secure work and a future share of the ‘one case, one fee’ cake.
This year the association encouraged members to bring along a DJ. This was not an advisory on the dress code, but a call to invite your local district judge - their tickets were complimentary. The after-dinner speeches were short on laughs, reflecting the challenging times, though not completely devoid of humour. LCCSA president Jim Meyer, resplendent in his presidential badge of office, took a sideswipe at plans to assess advocates by warning that he had not been quality assured. Meyer called on the bar for unity to find common ground to fight the government.
And despite the gloomy outlook, he also called on his solicitor colleagues not to be disheartened, before introducing the ‘main event’ - ‘the fearless defender of the innocent, the tireless campaigner, the legend’, Jim Sturman - who he noted wears the badge of QC, which he quipped ‘presumably stands for quality controlled’ and is therefore guaranteed to entertain. In the event that diners were not completely satisfied, Meyer advised them to submit a claim for a refund to the lord chancellor at www.who-gives-a-toss.com.
Sturman’s speech, however, provided little light relief, particularly if you were the director of public prosecutions and happened to be sitting on the top table. Sturman turned a particular gaze on the Crown Prosecution Service. He recalled an occasion when he had represented a lad accused of assaulting a police officer while drunk. Despite numerous requests, the CPS was unforthcoming with the CCTV from the custody suite. After Sturman’s adjournment application was successful, the case was discontinued. But Sturman had stern words for Keir Starmer QC on the subject of disclosure.
Obiter warned you there would be few laughs.