Defendants held in custody as no solicitor available to seek bail

Royal Courts of Justice
Royal Courts of (in)Justice

On the 1st July 2015, the government introduced a cut to solicitors legal aid fees, this was about a 9.51% cut from the rate applicable on the 30th June 2015 (nb at the same time the head of the Legal Aid Agency was awarded a 10% pay rise) and is part of an overall 17.5% cut in fees since the March 2014.  In reality, the cut is far more than a mere 17.5% because fees have been changed in other ways that need not concern us here, suffice to say that some of the cuts to fees are as high as 50% reductions!

Since the 1st July 2015, a very large number of criminal legal aid solicitors have been refusing to work for the new fees.  I am not surprised by this; I began handing back my legal aid contract in 2011 and ceased all legal aid work in June 2012 partly because the rates then were so low that I could not earn a living and simultaneous provide clients with the level of service that a) they deserved; and b) my obligations as a solicitor required.

The Ministry of Justice has claimed that the action is having no impact whatsoever; however, the police clearly do not agree with the Guardian reporting that “South Yorkshire police and other forces have confirmed that cases are backing up in custody suites and interview rooms”.  My own experience has been witnessing row upon row of unrepresented defendants in court waiting areas looking on, somewhat jealously, at those who can afford to pay privately for a solicitor to defend them.  I appeared at Uxbridge magistrates’ court earlier this week.  I asked court staff how things were going and was told it was a nightmare.  No defendants were ready and the court was preparing to sit at least two-hours late to 6.30pm and possibly beyond – this was at 11am!

Anyway, the point of this blog is really to discuss a point I saw made in the Guardian newspaper this morning.  They say that the protest has resulted “… in many defendants being remanded in custody because there is no solicitor available to apply for bail on their behalf.
With no solicitors, will you be relying
on the court cat to represent you?

Section 4(1) of the Bail Act 1976 couldn’t get much clearer, “A person to whom this section applies shall be granted bail …” it goes on to set out a number of exceptions, such as after convictions, but none of the exceptions includes “when there is no solicitor available to make an application”.

The court is obliged, by section 4(2)(a) to consider whether a defendant should be released on bail when “he appears or is brought before a magistrates’ court or the Crown Court in the course of or in connection with proceedings for the offence.”  Thus it is not sufficient for a court to say that they are going to refuse bail because there is no solicitor present to apply for bail.

Part of the point of this action, as I see it, is to show government, the courts and the public what life would be like without defence solicitors in court to assist all those involved.  

What have we learnt from the action so far?  Clearly that without defence solicitors the courts struggle to deal with unrepresented defendants.  More worrying is that without defence solicitors present to remind the courts of their obligations, the courts seem happy to ride roughshod over the rights of defendants appearing before them.

So, next time you are complaining about defence solicitors just remember that they are the ones who ensure that the power of the courts and the executive are kept in check!

Comments

  1. Very easy to sort.
    All charges to provide statement of fact.
    No statement of fact. No charge.
    False statement of fact incur penalty equal to maximum penalty of charge to claimant x 10.
    Thus any false claim has recompense. Plus damages.
    Its about time people should be educated in basic law.
    Do no harm.
    Create no damage.
    Cause no loss.
    Simple eh.
    Common law is simple, you try to make it complicated. It ain't.
    Most people in the UK know the fundamentals of common law, so bear that in mind.
    So good luck with your business and I wish you well. But don't expect people to pay you because of their ignorance of the law.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ed (not Bystander)18 July 2015 at 15:58

      One assumes this is the "freeman on the land" version of "common law", since it has no resemblance to actual English & Welsh common law.

      Delete
    2. I'm not sure it's as simple as you think since no part of this particular blog deals with common law at all!

      Delete
  2. Ed your a fuckin moron. If you think I am a freedom on the land, you are away with the birds.
    Bluetooth. William (The bastard) maybe a few to research.
    New constitution without common law? Fuck off and die.
    Don't piss in my pocket and tell me its raining. You and your ilk want "us" the people of these isles to bow even further to halfwit braindead fuckwits that do not even understand our laws.
    You are an ignorant cunt.Fuck off to where you came from and take all your mates (and family) with you.
    This country has had its problems and dealt with them and it will deal with the likes of you.
    Explain to me the law? in this country. No! then fuck off again.
    Tried twice to post but for some unknown reason (other than my computer shutting down for no reason) here goes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ed (not Bystander)21 July 2015 at 08:59

      Well, one of the people in this conversation is certainly a moron.

      Delete

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