Major fraud trial collapses in legal aid fiasco Watch

MostUncivilised
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http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/...legal-aid-cuts

A senior crown court judge has formally halted a complex fraud trial because expert defence barristers are refusing to represent the defendants in protest at 30% cuts in legal aid fees.

The unprecedented decision by Judge Anthony Leonard QC to stay the proceedings against five men in an alleged land bank fraud has thrown into doubt at least eight other financial prosecutions including Libor rate-fixing cases.
The defendants in this trial could not find a suitable barrister after consulting over 100 chambers, including sets in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister's brother, Alexander Cameron QC, agreed to represent them pro-bono in a successful motion to halt the trial on the basis of the unavailability of counsel.

As was predicted, the government's legal aid blunder has resulted in important trials collapsing. Also, expert witnesses are refusing to testify regarding the defendant's fitness to stand trial due to their reduced rates. It's bizarre that they expect a practitioner who can earn £200 in private practice to work for £72 an hour and no reimbursement for travel expenses.

I suppose it is a relief to know that we only have one more year of this failed government.
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MostUncivilised
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"Even after the savings, if a QC picked up a case like this one, they could expect to receive around £100,000 for working on it, with a junior barrister receiving around £60,000.
So if we accept the MoJ's £100,000 figure, you take off 20% VAT and another 20% for chambers fees, leaving £60,000. Then you apply income tax, national insurance contributions and pension contributions, and you're left with about £30,000 for work that could be spread over a year when you include pre-trial work. Hardly a king's ransom.
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TurboCretin
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This is what happens when you hire a non-lawyer Lord Chancellor for the first time since 1673. Grayling is a moron.
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TurboCretin
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As for the Prime Minister, he said the following:

"We have an independent judicial system in this country - and that is an absolutely vital part of being a free country.

"So my brother has made arguments on behalf of his clients in court and the judge has made a decision, that's the process, that's the way it should be."

Conveniently eliding the small fact that Alexander Cameron QC appeared pro bono due to the fact that nobody would take the case. If the PM thinks that barristers should be working for free as a matter of course, then that really says it all.
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Coffinman
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The judge should be charged with misconduct in this transparent act of trying to keep the legal snouts in the trough.
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MostUncivilised
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(Original post by Coffinman)
The judge should be charged with misconduct in this transparent act of trying to keep the legal snouts in the trough.
Do tell us what specific elements of his judgment you disagree with.
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RumpeIstiltskin
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(Original post by Algorithm69)
And yet still a better alternative to Labour.
Why is that?

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Coffinman
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(Original post by MostUncivilised)
Do tell us what specific elements of his judgment you disagree with.
In these ages of austerity there are cuts and plenty of professions have had to do just that. If the judge seriously thinks it's an injustice then he can help reform the system instead of asking for handouts.
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RumpeIstiltskin
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(Original post by Coffinman)
In these ages of austerity there are cuts and plenty of professions have had to do just that. If the judge seriously thinks it's an injustice then he can help reform the system instead of asking for handouts.
Judges aren't legislators, if Cameron and Grayling want to ruin the legal system there's not really much they can do.
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InnerTemple
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(Original post by Coffinman)
In these ages of austerity there are cuts and plenty of professions have had to do just that. If the judge seriously thinks it's an injustice then he can help reform the system instead of asking for handouts.
Legal aid has been the subject of cuts for years - since 1998. Criminal barristers have seen pay cuts and pay freezes during this time.

I think it totally reasonable that a self employed person has the right to refuse work should they feel the fee isn't fair.

What do you say the judge should have done?

On another note, rumour has it that there are more of these trials at risk of collapsing.



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Fullofsurprises
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(Original post by InnerTemple)
Legal aid has been the subject of cuts for years - since 1998. Criminal barristers have seen pay cuts and pay freezes during this time.

I think it totally reasonable that a self employed person has the right to refuse work should they feel the fee isn't fair.

What do you say the judge should have done?

On another note, rumour has it that there are more of these trials at risk of collapsing.



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Will this effect start to reach down to more ordinary cases, not just super-complex fraud cases?

Do you think that it will mean that effectively it is now even more likely that white collar criminals running sophisticated scams will get away with it, whilst 'blue collar' criminals continue to get sentenced?
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InnerTemple
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(Original post by Fullofsurprises)
Will this effect start to reach down to more ordinary cases, not just super-complex fraud cases?

Do you think that it will mean that effectively it is now even more likely that white collar criminals running sophisticated scams will get away with it, whilst 'blue collar' criminals continue to get sentenced?
This effect will certainly impact cases other than those concerning fraud. This is all happening because barristers are refusing to work on cases which are categorised as being Very High Cost Cases (VHCC). These are complex, and often high profile, cases which (as the name suggests) cost more than most normal trials do to run. Big fraud cases are prone to falling into this category because of the massive amounts of evidence and, very often, the fact that there are multiple defendants.

At the moment, we are seeing some of the fallout from the financial crash reach the courts. There has been criticism that not one prosecution was brought against anyone involved in dodgy activities which ultimately led to the crash. So the Financial Conduct Authority has been working hard to change this. Efforts which are being frustrated by the government's own failure to ensure a proper system of trial.

There are a few other big fraud trials planned which will be affected by this. The Court of Appeal will be reviewing the decision of the first judge, and it was announced today that the Ministry of Justice will be sending in its own lawyers. What is funny is that while the MoJ expect Joe Public to make do with a second rate defense during a criminal trial, it is more than happy to spend a lot of money instructing a top rate group of barristers to protect its own interests.

(Original post by Fullofsurprises)
Do you think that it will mean that effectively it is now even more likely that white collar criminals running sophisticated scams will get away with it, whilst 'blue collar' criminals continue to get sentenced?
Well it depends - as mentioned above, so long as the case falls into the VHCC category, then there is a chance that the prosecution will not go ahead. And with blue collar criminals unlikely to have their case rated as very high cost then yes, you could say that a fraudster has a better chance of getting away with it.

But the legal aid cuts will affect all cases in some way. It is just that the effects on the high cost ones, as seen here, is more immediate.
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