Michael Gove Puts On His Wig

by Ray_North on June 28, 2015

images-1This week Michael Gove announced his plans for the Legal Justice System – there will be no more cuts to Legal Aid, he said, which has been applauded by most Legal Aid lawyers, but in reality is pretty meaningless, the cuts have already been made and they’re savage.

He went on to say that he is going to cut ‘waste’, he is going to close down more Courts, and, he wants ‘those who are making a good living out of the Justice System, to do more pro-bono work.’

It was at this point that I expected my blood to boil and my hands to form stone like fists of anger. But, sadly, I couldn’t rouse myself – I, like many other lawyers working in the publically funded sector of the profession, am like a dog who has been hit so often and so hard, that it is now difficult to growl.

Let’s start with his promise to cut waste, which actually appears to mean reducing the need for paper. Ok – that’s fine, I suppose many modern lawyers will have to use lap-tops and tablets to peruse their briefs and that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but, Gove misses the point the problem is not an abundance of paper, the problem, as ever, comes back to funding – the CPS have to use particular types of computers to ensure security – sadly, these computers, due to lack of funds, appear to have been manufactured out of the back of someone’s garage on an housing estate in Pyong Yang. This means that, the already embattled CPS, are now having to deal with computers that break down due to their inability to cope with the hundreds of thousands of files and pages that they have to deal with.

Gove wants to speed up justice, again, that’s a good thing, no right thinking person thinks that it is right to leave witnesses and defendant’s alike waiting for months or, often, years to have their case dealt with. But, the reason why cases are taking so long is two-fold, first, is a lack of Courts and judges and staff to man those Courts, and second is the preponderance of people who don’t know what they’re doing, cases get adjourned for things to be done properly because orders are complied with or fundamental mistakes are made.

Gove seems to think that more technology can solve this – it can’t, it’s not about technology, it’s about having enough judges and allowing lawyers to do the jobs they’ve been trained to do.

Gove also seems to think that the system will be someone aided by the ‘richer’ lawyers giving something back to the system by doing more pro-bono work. This idea is as absurd as it is offensive. My colleague on these pages, George East, earns a ruck load more than me as a successful Chancery Lawyer, but he would be the first to admit that he wouldn’t have much of an idea about the Crown Court, any more than I would have the first clue about a case involving contract, tort, acquisitions or tax. The ‘richer’ lawyers aren’t rich because they’re better, they’re richer because they’re doing work which is better remunerated – I don’t mind that for one second – but, I do really resent the idea that any Rupert, Will or Henry can walk into a Crown Court and do the job without too much effort – it took me ten years to become remotely competent as a Criminal Lawyer.

Michael knows nothing about lawyers and sees the Justice System as an expensive thing to be pared back and left to the vagaries of market forces – and sadly, if he does that, we will end up with a two tier system where the rich can afford justice, and the rest of us have to make do.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Fionauk512 June 29, 2015 at 9:51 am

I feel your pain. Education already having already experienced the Govian equivalent of la la la I can’t hear you, because I think he truly believes he’s a reformer. It is hard to counter that zeal whereas others in his party just cynically want a two tier system because it is in their DNA and they are happy for people to be thrown to the wolves. We go back to the theme of the ‘undeserving’ (a wider and wider demographic) for whom every avenue of social justice is being cordoned off .

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