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Exhibit D – the “fraudster”

Exhibit D – the “fraudster”.

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Musings on Chris Graylings justifications for legal aid reform proposals

From the ministerial forward to the 2013 consultation document

“Under the previous government, the cost of the system spiralled out of control, and it became one of the most costly in the world”

The 2010 consultation document (http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm79/7967/7967.pdf) contradicts this statement in the following ways

1. Kenneth Clark pointed out in the Ministerial Forward that since 2006

“successive changes have managed to contain the growth in overall spending”. The expression “successive changes” referred to the “many attempts to reform the system by previous administrations”

2. Paragraph 3.40 pointed out that since 2003–04, the increase in legal aid spending had been contained, and the overall cost of legal aid had fallen by around 11% in real terms.

3. Paragraph 3.42 of the 2010 consultation document explains the folly of relying on international comparisons to justify reducing costs in the following way…

“Making international comparisons is complicated by differences in data collection methods and definitions. Costs in our justice system are distributed differently to those in other jurisdictions. A more inquisitorial style system is likely to spend more on inquisitors and the court process, and less on legal aid; and expenditure may be categorised under different budgets.

I would add that in a system of graduated set fees for advocacy it is impossible for those fees to be responsible for any spiralling costs. To reduce the fees and to introduce a taper from day 3 is an unwarranted measure. Furthermore it can not be justified by relying on the fact that a taper already applies to cases lasting over 40 days because that taper is likewise unjustified and has itself been forced on advocates.

#saveukjustice

A true story

My client (let’s call him Joe) suffered from depression. He had a row with his girlfriend and left her home threatening to commit suicide when he reached his own home. This would not have been the first time he had attempted suicide so his girlfriend called an ambulance.

Rewind to 12 months previously. He had had another row with the same girlfriend and she had called the police. When the police arrived he was on the landing with his dog (on its leash) and a knife. The front door opened into the stairwell and the police officer had a clear view of him. The officer dealt with that situation extremely well. He asked Joe calmly to put the dog in the bedroom (which he did) and to put the knife down (which he did not – not immediately anyway). The officer said that he would back away to the garden gate and that he would like Joe to come out of the house without the knife. The officer did what he said he would and within a couple of minutes Joe came out of the house having thrown the knife onto the garden path beforehand. He was arrested.

So back to the present…Because of the incident with the knife there was a marker on the emergency services database so that the ambulance called by his girlfriend couldn’t attend his house without police support – very sensible. So police officers made their way to his address. When they entered his house he was holding a hammer. In the officers’ witness statements they claimed that the hammer was used to threaten violence and that they feared for their personal safety so he was arrested (quite violently) and prosecuted for affray. Remember the police were only there to ensure the safety of the ambulance crew.

Joe had a trial. In evidence he said that he was holding the hammer because – in preparation for his suicide – he was removing his pictures from the wall and using the hammer to remove the picture hooks. This sounds a bizarre explanation but Joe was unwell and suicide, is in many cases, an irrational act. He said he did not use the hammer to threaten the officers and that they had entered his house uninvited and unexptected taking him completely by surprise. They had not explained to him why they were there and had taken hold of him aggressively and violently as soon as they came in. So his case was at odds with the accounts of 2 police officers (at least with their original written accounts).

One officer’s evidence was entirely consistent with their original accounts. It turned out that this officer was a member of the “shift” that attended the incident 12 months previosly. In evidence he referrred to that fact many times. He was late to attend to the incident 12 months earlier and was not there when Joe gave up his knife peacefully and without trouble. This officer nevertheless repeatedly said that in that incident Joe had “pulled a knife on members of his shift”. This officer had volunteered to attend the recent incident (involving the hammer). It was not in his area and he was on a break when the “shout” came over the police airwaves. His evidence was that he recognised Joe’s name from the incident 12 months previiously and had therefore attended because Joe had “pulled a knife on members of his shift” a year previously. He gave evidence that En route to the recent incident he carried out a risk assessment (as he was obliged to do under his own professional guidance) but the only factor that he was able to remember considering as part of that risk assessment was that Joe had “pulled a knife on his shift”.

The other police officer’s evidence was not consistent with his witness statement. His evidence was that when they entered Joe’s house Joe was indeed holding a hammer. They had entered so quickly that he assumed Joe must have already had it in his hand before he could have realised that the police had arrived. He was holding it up. He had his back to the door through which the police entered. He was next to the wall. Although there was insufficient time – die to the speed with which they physically arrested Joe – to know what he was doing with the hammer, what this officer saw was entirely consistent with Joe’s evidence that he was taking pictures off the wall. Crucially his evidence was that Joe’s body position and posture were not threatening when the officers entered (for a start he had his back to them) and did not change posture or position between them entering and them arresting him. In short he had not threatened them.

Needless to say this extremely vulnerable man was acquitted by the jury. Also needless to say the proceedings did nothing for the state of his mental health. He was well represented by experienced solicitor and counsel.

He could have been your son.

Please consider and sign the petition

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48628