Categorized | Criminal Justice, Legal Aid

No confidence motion passed at SGM

No confidence motion passed at SGM

A motion of no confidence in the senior leadership of the Law Society over the organisation’s policy on criminal legal aid reform passed by a narrow margin on Tuesday. More than 600 solicitors registered their attendance but only 441 cast a vote, with 228 voting in favour of the motion and 213 against.

The petitioners, led by Liverpool solicitor James Parry, oppose the Law Society Council’s policy of direct engagement with the Ministry of Justice on proposed reforms of criminal legal aid. He and his supporters favour a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign of outright opposition that could include direct action.

Des Hudson said it is wrong to suggest that the Society had no mandate, a point at the heart of this motion. “We had a mandate under the rules of the Society.” The Society leadership did not see the necessity for a postal ballot of members, and indeed none had been called for. “We’ve spent almost £120,000 on today’s meeting. Taking that up to £200,000 with a postal ballot is not the way to expend our resources to the benefit of the membership,” he added. “That said, we recognise that there are no winners and losers from today’s meeting. While I opposed Mr Parry’s motion, I don’t oppose what we are both seeking in terms of a functioning, high-quality criminal justice system with a sustainable body of criminal law solicitors.”

He added: “We want to reach out to James Parry and all the people who voted for him. Because while we may differ on tactics, we don’t differ on what we want to see.” He went on to say that he and the President listen to all members. “If you only talk to yourself or the people who agree with you, you get a distorted view of the world. I say that Mr Parry is not hearing all of the views.”

Parry admitted afterwards that he was surprised by the narrow margin by which his motion was passed. He said Law Society president Nicholas Fluck and Desmond Hudson would need to consider their position and look at changing the Society’s stance, but stressed that he remains open to fresh talks. He said: “I want the Law Society to work for the profession and my door is open to them. There is a diversity of views here. If there is a lesson to be learnt, it’s that there has been inadequate communication with members. That needs to go, and we need to find a way forward.”

In a statement published after the meeting closed, a Law Society spokesperson said: “There are lessons to be learned and we will reflect on these developments. Our immediate priority is to continue to influence the Ministry of Justice in our members’ interests. We will continue to make it very clear to the lord chancellor that we remain opposed to cuts.”

Des Hudson said: “We pursued a policy of engagement with govt because we believe – and past evidence shows us – non-engagement doesn’t work. It would have been easier, and more popular just to oppose the government.” Getting rid of PCT, securing client choice, getting agreement on quality and commitment to an independent review of the shape and size of contracts and the areas they’ll cover – none of these is insignificant and none could have been achieved without dialogue and engagement. Having been forced into these concessions Grayling must be puzzled, and probably pleased, by the apparent disarray in the Society.

Richard Miller and his team deserve professional support. He has supported legal aid unfailingly and with honour. It is time to remember the enemy is this government and the MoJ. It is they who are dealing real damage to the vulnerable.

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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2 Responses to “No confidence motion passed at SGM”

  1. T Burrough says:

    The issue that James Parry and his supporters had and still have is the Law Society’s agreement to the two tier contracting model.

    On almost all other matters agreement had been reached prior to the SGM, in an attempt to avoid the need for the meeting.

    The noises from the Law Society since the vote appear to ignore that point.

    This was not about whether to engage with the MOJ or not, more about what not to accept or agree to, without consulting the members affected by that agreement.

    To agree to removing 40% by value of the work available to firms, thereby wiping out over 1100 firms almost instantly without consulting with members was the real issue.

  2. Jeremy betts says:

    The law society missed the point and continues to do so. They proposed to the govt a scheme which would lead to all sole practitioners and smaller firms to be forced to close down. They did this as they listened to the views of a few not the views of the many members whose firms will be closed down.
    Now that the motion passed , they have failed to do anything to address this , no offers of resignations or withdraw of that proposal. The motion passed despite the law society trying to orchestrate the speakers on their side. At one point it got beyond a joke when the only people in a 200 capacity room were the speakers in support of the law society. The are not helped by the gazette only publishing the speeches on the law society side and ignoring the heartfelt ones for the successful motion.
    They have the chance now to either the easy thing or the right thing. The easy thing is to do as they have currently done, sweep it aside and carry on as if nothing happened. The right thing to do is to withdraw the proposal and obtain the views of all the criminal practitioners . A task that must be achievable in the day of emails and the use of the intranet service which is used for cpd points.

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