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Warning murder and rape cases will ‘crash to a halt’ as barristers set to strike

todayJune 21, 2022 2

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Strike action by barristers in a row over legal aid funding “will bring murder, rape and many other cases crashing to a halt”, says one top QC. But Michael Auty, who is Nottingham born and bred, stresses, “that is the last thing any barrister would ever wish to happen”. He claims politicians have forced the position.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which represents barristers in England and Wales, said several days of court walkouts will begin from next week – which is expected to bring the criminal justice system to its knees.

Mr Auty is a newsagent’s son who became a Recorder – part-time circuit judge – in 2019. He has prosecuted thousands of high profile complex cases across the Midlands including Operation Normality (R v Dawes), with prosecutor Paul Mann QC.

READ MORE: Barrister explains why she and her colleagues are going on strike

To give an idea of what can be involved, in May 2005 Robert Dawes’ brother and father, John Dawes and Arthur Dawes, went on trial with three other defendants accused of being part of a gang which had laundered millions of pounds of drug money out of East Midlands Airport.

After a nine-week trial at Nottingham Crown Court, the full scale of the operation became apparent – with nearly £9m recorded going through the gang’s books in just nine months during 2002 and 2003.

The trial ended with John Dawes, then 37, sent to prison for 24 years and Arthur Dawes, then 59, given an eight-year sentence. Both men were living in Sutton-in-Ashfield at the time, and jurors were told that the vast amounts of money were the cash proceeds of heroin and amphetamine dealing in Notts and parts of Derbyshire, which were smuggled out of the country to Holland and Spain. Robert Dawes wasn’t in the dock at the trial. He was in Spain where he had lived since the early 2000s.



John Dawes outside court in September 2017
John Dawes, who made £8.3m running a drugs empire, outside court in September 2017

The high-profile case is a prime example of the complexity of the job barristers sign up for – a job, like many, that consumes many thousands of hours of work to endeavour justice done. The criminal Bar is now bending under the pressure – not just at the sheer backlog of cases but the pay is not as people believe.

Mr Auty said: “Since 1996, we have suffered an average cut of 28% to our earnings with many facing cuts of closer to 50%.

“Governments of every hue and across all parties have falsely castigated us as “Fat Cats,” demonised us for endeavouring to ensure that the law is applied fairly and without fear or favour and treated us with scandalous contempt and disdain. We have had no time in the sun at all. Not for us a scrap of help during two years of the pandemic. We have had enough.



A view of Nottingham City Centre from Loxley House. Pictured left is Nottingham Crown Court; Michael Auty QC
A view of Nottingham City Centre from Loxley House. Pictured left is Nottingham Crown Court, and Michael Auty QC

“We are conflated with and mistaken for our colleagues at the Commercial Bar, whose earnings vastly outstrip ours by many multiples.

“And yet, if, for example, your daughter was to be raped or your son falsely accused of murder, you would expect competent barristers to be available to prosecute and defend accordingly. No one imagines they will ever need us, but those who do are usually eternally thankful we exist. We won’t for very much longer.

“This action will bring murder, rape and many other cases crashing to a halt. That is the last thing any barrister would ever wish to happen. Politicians have forced us to this.

“Crime has never been more virulent”

“Crime has never been more virulent,” Mr Auty continued. “We investigate so little, detect far less, prosecute a fraction of what remains and lack the resources to get much of that home. Far from being the party of Law and Order, the present administration has undermined justice, centuries of tradition and excellence and brought us to the brink of collapse.

“We’re used to fighting for justice, albeit usually for those we represent. We must now fight for our survival and for a fundamental tenet of this country’s identity, reputation and standing the world over. For the sake of us all, we must not fail.”

Mr Auty grew up in the Mapperley area, helping his father run his newsagent and ironmongery business whilst trying to decide on his own future career. He began a promising career as a guitarist in various rock bands before training to be a solicitor. He was called to the Bar in 1990.



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He went on to defend former Derby County chief executive Jeremy Keith in 2009, one of 4 men who were sentenced to prison for their parts in defrauding Derby of £440,625. Jeremy Keith was acquitted of conspiracy to defraud but convicted only of the lesser offence of making a fraudulent transaction.

Mr Auty also prosecuted the killers of former Chesterfield Town midfielder Jordan Sinnott, and the rape of a girl in the Forest Recreation Ground – after being told she could not board the last bus home in Nottingham because she was 20p short of the fare.

The strike

Barristers are the latest profession to go on strike, ahead of planned action by rail workers today (Tuesday, June 21), and reports of unrest among teaching staff and NHS employees.

The CBA said around 81.5% of the more than 2,000 members to respond supported industrial action.

Jo Sidhu QC and Kirsty Brimelow QC, from the CBA, said: “This extraordinary commitment to the democratic process reflects a recognition amongst criminal barristers at all levels of call and across all Circuits that what is at stake is the survival of a profession of specialist criminal advocates and of the criminal justice system which depends so critically upon their labour.

“Without immediate action to halt the exodus of criminal barristers from our ranks, the record backlog that has crippled our courts will continue to inflict misery upon victims and defendants alike, and the public will be betrayed.”

The strike action is intended to last for four weeks, beginning with walkouts on Monday, June 27, and Tuesday, June 28, increasing by one day each week until a five-day strike from Monday July 18 to Friday July 22. It means that cases at which barristers are required are likely to have to be postponed, including crown court trials.

Barristers are expected to stage picket lines outside court, including at the Old Bailey in London and at crown courts in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds and Manchester. In April, the CBA started to refuse to carry out “return work” – stepping in and picking up court hearings and other work for colleagues whose cases are overrunning – which is described as a gesture of goodwill to prop up the justice system.

The CBA said it also made “repeated efforts” to persuade the Government to honour the recommendations of the Criminal Legal Aid Review to increase their fees by 15% immediately, but have been disappointed.

Any disruption to criminal court cases is likely to have a knock-on effect on the current case backlog.

Barristers are expected outside several crown courts next week, including at the Central Criminal Court in the Old Bailey, London. Latest figures from HM Courts and Tribunals Service show there were 358,076 outstanding cases at magistrates’ courts, and 58,271 outstanding cases at crown courts, as of April 2022.

Mark Fenhalls QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said: “Each barrister who has voted is understandably angry and upset. Members of the criminal Bar have been feeling mistreated, undervalued and overwhelmed for a decade or more.

“The criminal justice system has been politicised by figures wishing to make political capital but unwilling to match the rhetoric with action and funding.

“All of this has been heightened by the stresses and strains of the pandemic, and we have been seeing flight from criminal practice – barristers abandoning criminal work to do other kinds of work that are better paid and less stressful.”

Justice Minister Mr Cartlidge added: “The 15% pay increase we consulted on would mean a typical criminal barrister earning around £7,000 extra per year and only last week I confirmed we are moving as quickly as possible to introduce fee rises by the end of September.

“We encourage the Criminal Bar Association to work with us, rather than escalate to unnecessary strike action, as it will only serve to harm victims as they are forced to wait longer for justice.”

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Written by: thehitnetwork

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