It hardly seems 12 months ago that I took over office as president from Andy Cash. I really don’t know where the year has gone. I has been a pleasure and honour.
As President I have enjoyed chairing our Committee meetings where attendance has increased. The reports given from our sub-committees have all been informative and demonstrative of our members engaging and working hard to promote legal services in our area.
Our Counsel Representative Michael Williams seems to have had an enjoyable year and has kept us informed of all the changes afoot with vigour. It will be interesting to see how the Counsel and reform pan out.
I am delighted that again this year the Junior Lawyers have worked tirelessly to engage new members and promote the Society. It has been a pleasure to work with then and be part of some of the events they have very successfully put on this last year. I would like to thank Ellis Pugh not only for all his hard work but to kindly agree to taking on the responsibility of Honorary Treasurer , a role I am sure he will undertake with his fantastic enthusiasm and commitment.
I hope everyone enjoyed the dinner last month. For me the run up to it was nearly as nerve wrecking as being Junior Counsel to Peter Joyce QC in a murder trial. But as in line with any advocacy, the huge amount of preparation, planning and sleepless nights thankfully paid off. Our administrator Julia did an exceptional job. I expect that there were quite a few sore heads the next morning. I know that it took a whole lap of Darley Park to clear mine.Turning to the Criminal Sub-Committee this again has been a very busy year of change and challenges. We are currently seeing the Independent Bar refusing to take on any new work with Representation Orders. The Bar have thrown down the gauntlet at the most recent cuts to the pay scheme. The Government stated that the scheme was cost neutral and meant increased fees in some areas. However personally I have seen fees cut for lower level crimes by around 45%. This means that many Defendants have been appearing before Crown Courts unrepresented. We have heard very worrying tales of Solicitors and back office staff being pushed into situations by the Courts that they should never have to be such as conducting advocacy and representing Defendants. Quite what their insurers will say I do not know in the event of a complaint.
Yesterday the Justice Committee heard evidence from Daniel Bonich, Vice Chair, Criminal Law Solicitors' Association, and Richard Miller, Head of Justice, The Law Society. The Committee heard very persuasive argument and representations on the terrible state of the funding and the whole system is at breaking point. If any members of our Society are experiencing difficulties or have any evidence of undue pressure imposed upon them then please could they email me so I can collate this information and relay it on. I can only hope that once further evidence is provided to the Committee a wholesale independent review of funding is undertaken. I do not hold my breath on this though.