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That was the week that might be…


As we await the Law Society’s decision on whether to challenge the new legal aid contracts – apparently due this week, as it must be, given that the contracts have to be signed by 30 March – there are interesting mutterings that some civil legal aid sectors at least might be considering following their criminal brethren into, umm,What Price Justice disobedience/refusal of a sort.

I’m not wholly convinced this will happen, not least because the civil sector is a lot less organised and cohesive than the criminal one, but also because the short term financial risk is more than many small and not so small firms could bear, but it is a measure of strength of feeling that this is not only being discussed but seriously considered. As more details become clear, I shall be ready to make supportive and explanatory pronouncements when needed.

Elsewhere, if not unrelated, the Times reports on the 50th Anniversary party of Bindmans. Speaking of Sir Geoffrey Bindman:

Stephen Grosz, senior partner, said that when new Labour came to power supporters knew three things: that the assault on civil liberties of the two previous decades would end; that access to justice would be guaranteed; and that Geoffrey’s contribution to human rights would be honoured. “Ten years on, the first two of these remain work in progress,” he said.

Well, yes.

Also in the Times, anonymous comments from the judiciary on year one of Lord Phillips’ reign. Although there is little in this that is surprising, I wonder about the suggestion that, although Lord Phillips has said some eminently sensible things publicly,

another judge added, he is old-fashioned in believing that “reasoned intellectual argument will be persuasive and lead to politicians and the press taking a more measured view. He’s not a soundbite man.”

I can see the point. It is an element of an earlier suggestion that the senior judiciary need to be

ready to make supportive or explanatory pronouncements when needed.

But, ageing Guardianista that I am, I cannot for the life of me see what a judically responsible soundbite could be like.

Sobbing US judges apart, a soundbite is immediate, designed for eye catching impact, un-nuanced, over simplified and inaccurate – nasty, brutish and short. This is surely the opposite of the ideal juducial habit of mind and speech. (Aphorisms are an entirely different matter. It is not the size but what you do with it that counts).

Mind you, the decision by the House of Lords on deductions for compensation for wrongful imprisonment in Regina (O’Brien and Others) v Independent Assessor suggests some judicial habits of mind could do with rethinking. Deductions from compensation should be made for expenses that one was forcibly prevented from incurring by the very act for which the compensation was made? Lovely principle.

At least the week has so far been free of shagging, flashing or blackmailed judiciary and silks. In the face of these, supportive and explanatory pronouncements would be hard to come by, if not soundbites.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


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