Before Mr Justice X: Solicitor-advocates.

The case for the prosecution is made by Peter Lodder QC, Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association.

Mr Lodder says this… “There is a huge increase in the use of higher-court advocates [solicitors who are qualified to act as defence advocates in serious trials]. …. The Bar does not say that such an advocate is bad by definition. Some are good, but there are many who are truly appalling – defence solicitors who have never before conducted a crown court trial and have very limited experience in the magistrates’ trials now appear as junior advocates to defend in murder trials.”

I noted, as did many, the subtle barb, the sharp lance of barristerial disdain, when Mr Lodder put the point.. that some CPS lawyers were less than top drawer and had left the bar “because they had never risen above a modest practice.”

Be that as it may, a phrase beloved of some members of the Bar, as they look out of the window while talking to you, but today I read in Legal Week that Michael Caplan QC (I looked him up in that Wikipedia thing) is a solicitor who took Silk in 2002, one of only a small band of solicitor QCs and is a well regarded partner at law firm Kingsley Knapley.  Caplan wades in from the Red corner to defend solicitor-advocates.  This is not surprising but he says this… ” It will be extremely sad if the recent public comments (see below) openly criticising solicitor-advocates, made on behalf of the criminal Bar, are allowed to cause hostility and divisiveness between the two sides of the profession.  There is a need for calm and reconciliation – and for all of us in the criminal justice system to work together to retain and promote its reputation around the world.”

I’m not entirely sure that I gained anything from reading this article other than the pleasing information that some of Mr Caplan’s best friends are criminal barristersbut it is not just barristers who can make barbed comments.  I particularly enjoyed this quote from the Legal Week post: ” I am sure that the criminal Bar, on mature reflection, will appreciate the importance of working together with solicitors, and to refrain from descending further into what many will see as divisive comments. It is better that we all work together from all sides to maintain respect and to seek to move forward.”

Absolutely, Mr Caplan…. good point.  The Criminal Bar, and indeed most barristers,  depend on solicitors for work… best they get on. We can’t have brothers-in-law falling out… that would not do at all.

I doubt that my observations are of any value to you… but as I am a relic from the Triassic… I have no obligation to get it right, provided…  as The Fat Bigot, a man of considerable eruditon and distinction who shares my taste for non-governmentallly approved drinking, opines….  I keep my comments within the law.



In the Matter of: Criminals on probation committed 120 murders in two years

Audio podcast version: Mr Justice X (2): In the Matter of: Criminals on probation committed 120 murders in two years

1. The Telegraph reports that “between April 2006 and April this year, offenders serving community sentences and suspended sentences were convicted of a total of 121 murders. There were a total of 1,004 serious crimes committed by offenders being supervised by the Probation Service, including 22 attempted murders, 103 rapes and 682 other serious violent or sexual offences. Another 374 alleged offences committed by criminals in the community have yet to come to trial.”

2. It would appear, from Ministry of Justice figures, that there has been a rise in the number of offenders being spared jail and given community-based sentences instead.

3. It has been some years, of course, since I sat as a judge but it seems to me that the present Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, who isn’t a lord because of Charlie Falconer’s jiggery pokery with the Constitution some years ago, has got a fair amount of work on his hands.  Fortunately, for the Justice Secretary, The Sun and other newspapers of appeal to the majority of English readers in this country, are more concerned with what Jonathan Ross and Willy Brand are up to, but it won’t be long before their attention is engaged by these remarkable figures and readers, as they eat their full English breakfasts in the cafes of our beautiful island, will be able to rant about prison, transportation, hanging, PCSOs, congestion charging, traffic wardens and anything else that comes into their heads at the time – possibly punctuated with appropriate words derived from Anglo-Saxon.

Old habits die hard… but I think it is time to depart from the strictures of the English judgment writing style and break out…..

It is a pleasure to be invited to be a columnist on this blog and I shall take advantage of the invitation, freed as I am from the need to sit in judgement, freed from the need to insert unusual bits of Da Vinci style code into my judgments to keep up with Mr Justice Peter Smith and his magnificent black moustache worthy of a Victorian beadle, and enjoy what is happening in the legal world.

I haven’t worked out quite how I am going to play this. Charon simply asked me to keep to the rules of late night blogging and hit the juice while I blogged.  This, I am finding remarkably easy to do – and the convenience of an Oddbins, but 45 yards from my present lodgings will, no doubt, assist.

I keep my hand in by reading the usual stuff and I note today that LawandMore have a list of ten legal blogs and Charon’s blog is on it.  I also noted the rather unusual editorial reference, a salutation to Charon from the Editor.. and I quote: ” Charon, we salute you and sorry for setting your chest hair on fire.”

Charon explained that he had been to a lunch at the LawandMore offices earlier in the year – and had enjoyed the experience immensely.  He declined to comment as to how his chest hair came to be set alight… he merely muttered res ipsa loquitur as he left to buy a bottle at the bar.

I hope to be able to write once a week or so,  provided the Grim Reaper does not get tooled up with a new Googlephone (as Geeklawyer seems to have done) and finds out where I am.  I have taken the precaution of not taking foreign holidays so I do not need one of these new passports with antennae built allowing the government to track my whereabouts at all times.  I shall be back, hopefully at the weekend.  Do call me Henry – it is the name I am now using.

Have a good one….

***

Audio podcast version: Mr Justice X (2): In the Matter of: Criminals on probation committed 120 murders in two years


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Mr Justice X….the beginning

Audio Podcast: Mr Justice X (1) – The Beginning

Allow me to introduce you to Mr Justice X.  He has retired, of course – but he is still thinking, still watching and still has JUDGMENT.

I met Mr Justice X some time ago in the most curious circumstances.  I happened to be having a drink down at El Vino’s in Fleet Street, sitting at the back.  The “Ties Mandatory” rule had gone, and ladies, of course, had been allowed through the hallowed portal.  As it happens, I was wearing a tie…  a drinking society tie… rather exclusive.  I was reading The Times Law section, naturally, when they did a proper law section on Tuesdays.

“Anyone sitting there?”  I heard this deep sonorous voice.  The voice appeared to come from above.  I turned to find the craggy features of a gentleman wearing a pinstripe suit, stiff collar, silk tie.  His black Church’s brogues were over thirty years old but were highly polished.  He had a white handerchief folded in his top pocket.  A distinguished gentleman.

“No… please do sit down”  I replied.

“What are you drinking?” the gentleman asked.

“A Rioja.”

“What?”

“A Rioja.”

“Good grief… Bourbon wine… very well.”

He got up, walked over to the bar and returned with a bottle of Rioja and two glasses.  I was both delighted and baffled when he poured both glasses.  I enjoy a drink, but I tend not to set one up in advance as a spare.

The gentleman pushed the glass towards me…  “To the King of bloody Spain!” and drained half the glass.  It was then I realised that the second glass was for me.  I picked my glass up, made a circular motion with the glass, and said “To the King across the water… Jacobus.”

The gentleman laughed “You’re a Scot.  Don’t sound like one.  Sound like a bloody news reader… are you a news reader?”

“No, I am not a news reader… I am a blogger… Charon QC.”

“You are a QC?”

“No.. I’m a blogger.  I gave myself silk when The Lord Chancellor stopped dishing them out a few years ago.”

“Excellent… good idea.” the gentleman said, laughing and draining the remainder of the wine from his glass.  “Drink up… we have much to talk about and, I notice from your tie, that you are a Toper.”  With that my drinking companion, as I now viewed him, poured the rest of the bottle into my glass and then his.

“I was a judge many years ago… Henry is the name I use now.  High Court.  Too stupid and too difficult and too often appealed to get any further.  I keep up of course by reading the odd bit of gossip… been looking at all this talk of wigs and gowns… ridiculous, really…. but as my old friend Lord Donaldson said years ago… ” I cannot see the point now of discarding something which has been out of date for at least a century.”

And that is how I met Mr Justice X  … Henry, as he likes to be known, is going to be an occasional columnist.  I have absolutely no idea what he is going to write about.  He promises to write only after a few glasses but may shoehorn in a bit of law. A kindred spirit.

Audio Podcast: Mr Justice X (1) – The Beginning