Like striking miners in the 1980s, criminal defenders must sometimes feel they are treated as the ‘enemy within’ by government. Pointedly overlooked for their role in expediting justice after the 2011 August riots, they have now been hit by an accelerated price tendering process which bears all the hallmarks of a done deal.
No, we don’t know the details yet. But if Chris Grayling is issuing proposals in April, his department must already know what they are, and tendering is to start in the autumn. Nine out of 10 solicitors oppose the move, but so what? In Austerity Britain, it appears somehow politically macho to ‘rubber ear’ the constituency most immediately affected by deep spending cuts.
Has anything been learned from the spectacularly bungled outsourcing of court interpreting?
Given that these radical plans could have huge and potentially devastating ramifications for many criminal firms and for the criminal bar, an eight-week consultation period looks like no more than a fig leaf.
One must hope such a defeatist attitude is premature. The Law Society wants your help to find alternative proposals to meet the justice ministry’s Treasury-imposed budget constraints. The status quo, Chancery Lane has been told, is not an option.
We can only encourage all stakeholders to get involved with that process as soon as possible (see Practice Points). Time is short.