The criminal bar has launched itself into the true spirit of the labour movement, it appears, with a good old-fashioned bout of infighting to go with its new-found militancy.
After two successful days of action by barristers in conjunction with solicitors, the Ministry of Justice announced that a planned fee cut was to be postponed until the middle of next year – after the General Election. The Criminal Bar Association responded by calling off its protest action, including the so-called no returns policy.
There were immediate accusations of selling out and abandoning their solicitor colleagues to their fate. One barrister resigned from the CBA executive committee in protest, calling the deal “entirely the wrong decision”, while others took to the Twittersphere to protest.
Yet another wrote in a resignation letter: “In exchange for a 15-month reprieve, we have abandoned our solicitor colleagues at a uniquely united and strong moment in our history.”
But a fortnight is a long time in political infighting. The response of the Bar Association was to hold a ballot, in which two-thirds of respondents voted to accept the ‘deal’ and call off the action.
The president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association (LCCSA), described the result as 'disappointing’, while noting that a sizeable number of barristers had rejected the deal.
“We look forward to working with them in the future,” she is reported as saying by the Law Society Gazette.
The LCCSA, meanwhile, has joined with the Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA) to prepare a legal challenge to the cuts, accusing the MoJ of acting “unlawfully”. The move follows a 48-hour walkout by the solicitors and probation officers.
• Lord Justice Jackson, whose reforms sparked the whole era of unrest among the legal profession, has claimed that the whole package will eventually bed in, with most people agreeing that some kind of reining in of cost was essential. The judge given the job of implementing them, Mr Justice Ramsey, has advised that it may take five years for their efficacy to be evaluated.
• That other favourite football that has taken its toll of experts and lawyers alike – whiplash – has become the subject of an eradication campaign by the insurers, according to the Law Society Gazette.
That estimable organ quoted James Dalton, head of motor and liability for the ABI as telling the Modern Claims conference in London: “We need a debate about whether someone should be awarded money for a low-value, low-impact and very minor injury claim. It’s a debate about whether you should be provided with rehabilitation and no cash. That is a legitimate public policy debate for society to have and politicians to decide on.”
Further fuel was added to the fire by the publication of the confused.com price index, which shows the lowest motor premiums for five years.
The report was produced in association with analysts Towers Watson, whose head of pricing Stephen Jones said: “Contributing factors could include optimism surrounding potential reforms in the medical assessment of whiplash and action which may be taken on third-party repair and hire costs.”
In what could become a twist in the tail, a doctor has been suspended from practice for filing a “fabricated whiplash report” for a family member who had been involved in an accident. Sounds like the turkeys voting for Christmas.