Saturday, 23 May 2015

Food for Thought

Two items I've noticed that are worthy of note, first this from the Lawyer:-

Criminal barristers are threatening to go on strike again, in protest against the goverment’s cuts to legal aid.

Members of the Criminal Bar Association voted overwhelmingly in favour of direct action with 1,328 out of 1,385 - or 96 per cent - in favour of action and only 57 voting against in a CBA survey. The CBA, which has a membership of about 4,000, says this is “a very high turnout” for such a survey.

One of the key issues that barristers are concerned about is the proposed implementation of the Duty Provider Scheme (DPS), also known as the ‘two-tier contract’ scheme. They believe that proposed cuts and changes could result in work that has traditionally been done by barristers being done by solicitors instead.

The CBA’s leadership believe the changes “will destroy the quality of legal representation within the Criminal Justice System. The most able and committed young lawyers will have no future, and the independent bar will collapse.”

CBA chairman Tony Cross QC, said: “The response for such a survey was unprecedented and 96 per cent of those who responded have urged the CBA to take action to press the Government to think again.

“The proposed changes have no sensible economic foundation and will lead to irreversible damage to the Criminal Justice System. The proposed scheme will reduce competition, stifle innovation and paralyse the market as it becomes closed to new entrants.Spending on legal aid has already dropped by one third since 2009/10, meeting government targets several years ahead of schedule. No other sector of Government spending has borne such brutal cuts. There is simply no room or need for more.”

“We remain committed to constructive dialogue with the Government to ensure that our country has a Criminal Justice System that is fit for the 21st Century. 
No barrister wishes to withhold his or her labour. It is a measure of the extreme nature of our concern that so many of our members are contemplating such action.”

And Rob Allen sounds a word of caution in his latest blog about the Magistrates Association cosying up to private companies in the form of CRC's:-

Private Troubles and Public Issues

It is concern about how things might appear rather than risks of corruption that have alarmed a number of current and former JP’s about the burgeoning financial relationship between the Magistrates Association (MA) and a number of private sector Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC's).

The MA is a charity operating under Royal Charter which represents the vast majority of the 22,000 JP’s in England and Wales. As part of its income generation strategy, the MA has set up an Education and Research Network to be made up of organisations “working within and around the justice system”. According to the latest issue of The Magistrate Magazine, “we already have five founding affiliate organisations on board”. According to one of the members of the Board who oversees the network, these are all CRC’s who have contributed £10,000 to join. In return they will enjoy the fruits of the research which is commissioned, with any money left over helping to fill a £50,000 gap in the MA’s budget.

What’s the problem some might ask? Surely this is simply an entrepreneurial effort to add to the body of knowledge about the workings of the criminal justice system while strengthening one of its key stakeholders. What happens in court and the decision-making of magistrates are relatively under researched areas where new information could be of considerable public benefit.

The problem is not about the work that the Network might produce, although there must be doubt about whether it can both research high quality studies and return much of a profit to the MA. It is rather that the investment by private companies gives an appearance that improper influence might be being sought. CRC's are controversial bodies, the outcome of a highly contested process of privatisation. Labour's election manifesto referred to the reckless privatisation of probation, meaning dangerous offenders are more likely to be monitored by companies with no track record of success, putting public safety at risk.

The most recent inspection report about the Transforming Rehabilitation changes that created the CRC's found signs of developing tensions with the National Probation Service "as managers considered what they were actually contracted to do and entitled to receive, rather than what they had traditionally done". In this unsettled context, the CRC's will be looking for all the friends they can find.

The Guide to Judicial Conduct advises judges to take care in considering whether, and if so to what extent, their name and title should be associated with an appeal for funds, even for a charitable organisation. “It could amount to an inappropriate use of judicial prestige in support of the organisation and may also be seen as creating a sense of obligation to donors”. This is something that Lady Justice Hallett who sits on the Network Board will no doubt have considered. The Guidance does make clear that “there will be occasions, for example in the case of charities supporting the work of the Courts, where the objection would not apply”. But the vexed nature of the CRC’s, and the concern which their owners will understandably have to enhance their reputation should argue for caution on the part of the judiciary.

From the Magistrates side, the MA’s activities include the provision of information and advice to magistrates, developing guidance to improve the delivery of justice in the courts and responding to proposals which affect the delivery of justice. They cannot be put in a position where the content of that guidance, information and advice could be seen to be influenced by commercial considerations.

It is interesting that the Senior Presiding Judge has issued guidance about liaison between providers of probation services and sentencers, emphasising that it is the National Probation Service (NPS) who have that responsibility and not the CRC’s. It is not clear whether channelling communication through the remaining public sector part of the probation service is a matter of administrative convenience or of ethical propriety. It is perhaps worth the Magistrates Association considering both dimensions as they move forward with their new initiative.


  1. Rofecoxib (Vioxx)
    Maker: Merck
    Recalled: 2004 (after five years on the market)
    Financial damage: nearly $6 billion in litigation-related expenses alone
    Vioxx is considered to be the largest drug recall in history, and one which elicited one of the greatest public outcries. Vioxx, prescribed to more than 20 million people as a pain reliever for arthritis, was found to be responsible for increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Both Merck and the FDA were roundly criticized for ignoring evidence of the dangers of Vioxx before its eventual recall. Merck settled Vioxx litigation in the US for $4.8 billion, with close to $1 billion in legal expenses.

    Valdecoxib (Bextra)
    Maker: Pfizer
    Recalled in 2005 after just one year on the market.
    Financial damage: Over $2 billion in legal awards and expenses.
    Bextra, like Vioxx, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug... It was removed from the market not long after Vioxx over similar concerns – increased risk of heart attack and stroke. In some cases, it was also found to cause a fatal skin condition... Bextra gave rise to one of the largest criminal fines ever imposed in the US. Pharmacia & UpJohn Company was fined $1.195 billion, in addition to legal awards, after admitting to criminal wrongdoing, specifically with ‘intent to defraud or mislead’ in relation to the promotion of the drug.

    Mibefradil (Posicor)
    Maker: Roche
    Recalled: 1998 (after one year on the market)
    Financial damage: Analysts had projected $2.9 billion in sales within 4 years
    In only one year on the market, Posicor was linked to 123 deaths. Considered relatively safe when taken alone, Posicor became potentially deadly when combined with any of 25 different drugs. The large number of deaths are troublesome considering that the drug was prescribed to no more than 200,000 people worldwide in the space of one year, a relatively small number. Posicor is on this list for stimulating debate surrounding policies encouraging the FDA to hasten the approval of certain drugs. It is often cited as a strong example of what can go wrong when drugs are rushed to market.

    Feel free to add any other drug to the list of medical disasters caused by individual greed & corporate vested interests (£££'s) resulting in incompetent or criminally negligent behaviour by the public body responsible for independent oversight.

    1. Can't wait for sentencing hearings in the next couple of years:

      "Mr Bloggs, after hearing what your solicitor has said - Weaseley & Weaslier, specialists in criminal law - and having read the Sodexo Kwik-Style Report - available at all good CRCs & adaptable for all court settings - we have decided to offer you a Community Order with Nacro, experts in crime for over 25 years. You'll have to complete 100 hours of unpaid work for the Sodexo chosen charity of the month sponsored by Pfizer - Pfizer, proving drugs are good for you. We rather think that making you available for clinical drug trials would mean you give a positive contribution to our profits, er, sorry, to society. And as for rehabilitation we're giving you the chance to attend 40 days' RAR at the Nacro Academy, sponsored by Grayling Enterprises. You'll attend as instructed, allowing Grayling Enterprises to reap the rewards of rehabilitation. This sentence was brought to you by Mags'R'Us, the only proven sentencing courts powered by Unintel in partnership with PCWorld."

    2. Love it! Sad thing is that when NACRO were part of the Work Programme in Wales they were giving out the wrong information. They have been superseded by another company who's name escapes me.

  2. Courts have also been driving their own agenda to eliminate the traditional PSR as here in the North courts are expecting 100% of reports done on the day with "any errors being sorted out later" ....and we are already seeing serious errors as corners are continually being cut.....

    1. Errors to be sorted out later without legal aid....mmmm.

    2. For example, to date, six orders on my CRC caseload made in the last 6 weeks are having to be returned to be varied/amended because requirements are inappropriate/unworkable. Hours of unnecessary admin & stress/distress. Why? Made without reports, made with McDonalds' fast-food reports, or simply NPS staff at court unable to access relevant information about cases. Its SHIT!!

  3. It is indicative of the attitude of this organisation, an organisation that in its current form is well beyond its sell by date, that none of the factual content of your post appears in the public "news" area of its website. Having resigned years ago from the M.A. along with hundreds of others is it any wonder that many consider it a self serving organisation for the benefit of its gong seeking executive.

  4. Looking for something to read this weekend? Wales CRC 1st Annual Service Plan sets out their probation services & commitments to reducing re-offending. Lots of reading between the lines!

  5. Interested to read in Wales CRC Annual Service Plan that they state they also operate in the South West. Seems they may be a bit confused about their true identity. Working Links may operate in the South West but I am pretty sure Wales CRC doesn't (not yet anyway)

    "Providing probation and resettlement services in Wales has some key differences from the South West CRCs where we also operate."

  6. Probably written by someone in WL rather than CRC. Maybe they want just one area encorporating all 3 CPAs. One admin , HR etc based in one of the main cities?
    'Services commissioned and managed by Wales CRC will
    be reviewed as we move forward to ensure they continue
    to be fit for purpose.'
    WL are reviewing all their stand alone projects such as IOM, PPO and women's Pathfinder. They are looking to bring them back into the generic CRC.

  7. I hope not . I'm in the ppo team or turnaround as we call it in Devon and Cornwall. But I'm nps and have those cases so I don't know how that would fit in with working links plans. Ppo teams are effective as police,drug agency and probation all in the same office

  8. PPOs are supervised by CRC in Wales under IOM with police, drug testing, DWP, support workers etc in the same office.

    1. Wouldn't IOMs/PPOs/turnaround bright eyes/etc be supervised by CRC or NPS according to assessed RoSH?

    2. In Devon and Cornwall turnaround/ppo have a nps officer to supervise the mappa and risk escalation case along with the high RSR scoring ones

  9. Working Links taking over the Country

    'Working Links seeks Expressions of Interest.

    'Working Links wishes to engage with local partners to enhance our customer offer in the delivery of the forthcoming Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and Big Lottery European Social Fund (ESF) opportunities in the areas of Employability, Skills, Social Inclusion and Early Intervention Services to operate in the following regions:

    The North East
    The North West
    Yorkshire and Humber
    East Midlands
    The South West'