Tag Archive | "Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC"

The Brexit Papers


Brexit could undermine London’s status as a highly profitable international legal centre, according to the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales.

The Government must put the public interest at the heart of its Brexit strategy, the Bar Council has warned as it publishes the Brexit Papers, written by members of the Brexit Working Group set up by the Bar Council to examine the range of complex issues arising from Brexit and to help the Government identify the legal and constitutional priorities.

Led by the Chair of the Brexit Working Group, Hugh Mercer QC, the group has drawn on the combined expertise and experience of the profession across a wide range of practice areas. Mercer said: “EU law currently impacts nearly all areas of life. We need a plan to make sure that people do not suffer from uncertainty and ultimately end up worse off. If we are going to minimise the adverse impacts on UK citizens, a huge number of highly technical areas of law need looking at in fine detail.”

The Bar Council did not take a position on leaving or remaining in the EU. Chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC said: “There has not been a more profound legal and constitutional challenge in living memory with which the UK Government has had to grapple, in terms of legal complexity, or significance for the long-term health and stability of the economy…Our interest is in helping to ensure that Brexit delivers the best deal possible for Britain.”

The report refers to cases in which claimants are being advised not to choose English jurisdiction clauses in their contracts where previously they would have been almost an automatic choice. Some cases that would normally be launched in England are being started in other EU jurisdictions due to uncertainty over the ultimate enforceability of English judgments.

According to the ‘Guardian’, the UK legal services market generates £25.7bn a year in revenue and employs 370,000 people. It produced £3.3bn of net export revenue last year. In the short to medium term Brexit may benefit lawyers whose legal advice is sought in a period of uncertainty, but the long-term prospects are not as good.

Peter Wilding, the man credited with inventing the term Brexit in 2012, said “This is not stopping Brexit, this is shaping it. The country demands a win-win, smart Brexit, not a lose-lose ideological hard Brexit which will damage the UK, damage Europe and for which there is no need and no mandate.”

The Law Society welcomed the bar’s Brexit Papers publication, which it said echoes positions set out by Chancery Lane in the wake of the referendum vote. Law Society president Robert Bourns said that: “Throughout this year the bar and the solicitor profession have been engaging with the government to examine the ramifications of Brexit, and put robust information before ministers, parliamentarians and officials.”

Hugh Mercer said “There is a great deal of work to be done. The resources of the Brexit Working Group, as well as those of the Bar Council and the Bar as a profession, are being made available to the Government, parliamentarians and the media, as well as to the public, so that Brexit delivers the best deal possible for Britain.”

The full text of The Brexit Papers can be found at:
http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/media/508513/the_brexit_papers.pdf

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The need for a review of legal aid


The Legal Aid Act has denied justice to the most vulnerable and must be reviewed. The government is committed to a review after three years but there is mounting evidence that it should come sooner.

On people trafficking, when LASPO came into force, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) didn’t include such claims within a mainstream contract category, instead bundling them into the “miscellaneous” category along with around 20 other types of case. The result is that organisations bringing these sorts of cases are severely limited in their ability to do so. The Lord Chancellor has agreed to conduct an urgent review of legal aid provisions for people bringing compensation claims against their traffickers.

The legal aid cuts have added to the strain on divorcees. Evidence gathered by Citizens Advice shows that nine out of 10 people who have gone through the family courts, under new rules that heavily restrict access to legal aid, suffer strain in their mental and physical health, working lives and finances. The system is not set up to deal with “litigants in person” (LiPs). Of those who chose to be litigants in person, 90% reported a negative impact on their everyday lives.

Three years after the government scrapped legal aid across swaths of civil law, more ‘advice deserts’ are materialising in the sectors that remain in scope. A number of areas have no cover at all. The Law Centres Network said: “Parliament’s intention in LASPO was that the most vulnerable people should still be able to access legal assistance. As evictions and homelessness rise steadily, a decline in housing legal aid uptake suggests that need is not being met.”

The Court of Appeal has upheld a challenge to the government’s changes to legal aid for victims of domestic violence. The Law Society backed the challenge brought by the Public Law Project. Society president Jonathan Smithers said: “The LASPO legal aid cuts have resulted in radical consequences for access to justice with the worst impact affecting the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of society. Survivors of domestic violence should not be subjected to the over-strict tests required by the regulations as they now stand.”

The Low Commission was established by the legal education charity Legal Action Group in 2012 in the wake of the legal aid cuts to develop a strategy for access to advice and legal support in social welfare law in England and Wales. It was set up to examine the impact of legal aid cuts and develop a strategy to help ensure access to justice. It is to be wound up because of a lack of funds.

When Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour party last September one of his first acts was to announce an immediate review of legal aid. He said: “I have asked Willy Bach, the former Shadow Attorney General, to undertake an immediate review of the assault on Legal Aid by the Government over the last five years.”

He went on to say: “Even though it is clear that the consequences of Part One of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) are disastrous, the Government refuses to review the way in which the Act is working.”

Corbyn will agree with the 22 signatories, including Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC Chair of the Bar Council and Jonathan Smithers President of the Law Society, to a recent letter in the ‘Guardian’. Short and to the point it said: “We believe the legal aid reforms have had a severe impact on the ability of vulnerable people to access justice since they came into effect on 1 April 2013. We agree with the justice select committee that the cuts have limited access to justice for some of those who need legal aid the most.”

It concluded: “The government has repeatedly said it will carry out a review to assess the full impact of the legal aid changes after three years. Today we call on ministers to fulfil this commitment at the earliest opportunity. We believe it is vital for government to ensure nobody is denied access to justice based on their ability to pay.”

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Contingent legal aid fund (CLAF)


Last week Lord Justice Jackson called on lawyers to resurrect the old idea of a contingent legal aid fund (CLAF) to back worthy cases.

The idea of CLAF was first floated by legal charity Justice in 1966. The classic model for a CLAF, as described in a 2009 Bar Council discussion paper, is where the fund’s administrators agree to back the claim if the likely chances of success and damages justify support. In return, the client, upon success, pays a percentage of the damages recovered back to the fund. The costs of the successful case are recovered in the ordinary way from the defendant and contributions from the successful claimant’s damages fund future cases. Read the full story

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Legal aid contracts: what now?


For the past couple of years the Legal Aid Agency has been fighting a fruitless battle with the legal profession over the legal aid contracts system. Right up to the last minute the Agency was stubbornly protesting that the legal actions that finally buried the contract nonsense would be stoutly pursued.

Then Michael Gove pulled the rug from underneath them, leaving the Agency to put out the following sad little statement:

Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)


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