I think it's also worth remembering that the shit we find ourselves in is part of something much bigger and we are not alone. In trawling through the internet, I came across the following wonderfully acerbic 'consultation' response, written by a senior QC in relation to the legal professions on-going battle with Chris Grayling over legal aid. It pulls no punches:-
I suspect there will be fewer responses to this second “consultation”. That should
not be interpreted as a decline in interest on the part of the legal profession and
certainly not as any indication that the anger in the profession has diminished.
Rather it is likely to be attributable to the fact that as everyone can see this is not
a “consultation” at all. We have a millionaire Secretary of State who shows not
the slightest interest in the work that a large part of the legal profession
undertakes on behalf of the public. He has failed to engage with the Bar at all and
has taken little or no notice of submissions by the organisations that reflect the
views of high street solicitors. It is clear to all that Mr Grayling just isn’t
interested in a discussion or debate. He is simply going through the motions of a
“consultation exercise” before going ahead with what he planned all along. He
merely seeks to prove his credentials to his cabinet colleagues as a man who can
deliver the cuts he promised, if necessary in the teeth of sustained opposition.
Small wonder then that many in the profession will think they have better things to
do with their time than waste it in trying to talk to someone who isn’t interested
No one could seriously contend other than that this whole exercise is part of an
ideological assault by this government on all aspects of the welfare state, of which
legal aid is an important part. The government has taken the opportunity
provided by the economic crisis caused by their chums in the banking industry to
blame the poor and to wreak havoc on the welfare system on which many of our
fellow citizens depend. To a cabinet stuffed full of millionaires the loss of high
street solicitors and barristers who do mainly legal aid work will be a matter of no
concern. When would any of them ever need a legal aid lawyer? But to millions in
this country who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer any more than they can afford
to pay for expensive medical treatment the legal aid system is not a luxury, it is a
How else than by judicial review are people supposed to obtain redress from
government at local or national level when officials seek unlawfully to close
hospitals or imposed new benefit regimes that have not been properly thought
through? How are those without means suppose to seek redress against slum
landlords, overcharging on rent and housing them in appalling conditions? How are
they supposed to defend themselves against an unlawful eviction? And what of
those accused of crime? The wealthy can no doubt afford the best and when MPs,
newspaper executives and celebrities find themselves in trouble with the law they
go off to expensive lawyers who charge far above the legal aid rate for their
services. But what of the poor? Does the government not care if the result is that
more innocent people are found guilty not because of the strength of the evidence
but because their lawyer was sub-standard because they could not afford a better
one? Are they to have a second rate service provided by increasingly less well
qualified lawyers paid at increasingly low rates of pay? That is already
happening of course. Solicitors rarely attend court these days with their client,
because the government stopped paying them to do so, leaving only the barrister,
whose attention also has to be on what is happening in court, to provide any sort
of support and reassurance for a bewildered and frightened lay client and no one
to help find a document in the file or locate a witness who has failed to turn up to
At several points in this submission I have paused and wondered whether to
continue or just delete the whole thing and get on with some other work. In the
end I decided that despite the fact I am fully aware that this document will have
absolutely no impact on the Secretary of State’s plans to slash funding for legal
aid, it was important that someone like me who has spent a whole career working
in publicly funded law should record these views if only so that sometime in the
future when people are surveying the wreckage of our criminal justice system
someone may come upon this submission and find in it a key to understanding what
has happened. It is said that for evil to triumph it merely requires that good men
do nothing. That may seem over-dramatic for what is currently under
consideration but let it not be said that when this government decided to impose
cuts on legal services that ended up destroying the system there were no
I really feel the anxiety in the responses so far about whether to strike or not. There is real polarisation here, by all parties and to a great extent that is to be expected -
The EMPLOYERS (MoJ) want to change our collective terms and conditions and de skill the work that we do,
The EMPLOYEES want to protect their roles by not rocking the boat, not losing money and with a general feeling of anxiety about the future and whether anything will change.....
MoJ have been crass, bullying and incompetent, NAPO has been equally unreliable and the Trust CEO's have rightly or wrongly focused on BUSINESS AS USUAL.
None of our previously reliable (!) sources of comfort and support have provided US with sufficient confidence to make a clear decision in any way and so we are all in an almighty pickle.
I believe that if I am in the union of probation and court staff, then I have a DUTY to support the call for strike action, there is fellowship in this group whereby staff are able to share experience and support each other in good times and bad and now when it is CRITICAL, so we should stand together.
We all know that we are been royally shafted from all angles and that the Secretary of State is taking a personal interest in this because he has self interest and self promotion in mind. Our voice has not been heard, we have been stifled by our Trusts, by the MoJ and by the Press - all we can now do is stand up and say to them all we have a voice and it will be heard...
If you think the £100 or so that you lose on Tue/Wed is a lot, what about the £1000's we stand to lose in lower terms and conditions, with frozen pay, loss of increments, longer hours, reduced pensions, job security and job satisfaction - and most importantly of all the service that we provide to the public.
Look around and see the other sectors that are taking strike action...not for pay or bonus but to protect the PROFESSIONAL integrity of public service - Teachers, Fire, Royal Mail etc etc
In my personal and professional life, I would rather give someone enough for a meal rather than let them go hungry - none of us will go hungry but I would say to anyone still unsure that for the loss of a days money is small change compared to the alternative.
I have changed my career previously and you might think that getting a new job may be straight forward , but think about the time you need to serve to get the same holiday, sickness, pension and training opportunities as you have NOW. It takes many years.
Good Luck to everybody taking Industrial Action next week and whatever you do, do it with a clear conscience.
Finally, here's the redoubtable Pat Waterman, Chair of Greater London Napo being interviewed recently by the the artist taxi driver:-