Thursday, 30 April 2009


My friends and I often make up very stupid jokes, about wearing scents of perfume that encompass certain emotions.

The most common ones are Rejeรงtion, Desperation and Rage.. (of course all said with a french accent)

Today I despaired as yet another mini-pupillage rejection letter came through the door.

So therefore today I am completely and utterly miserable.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

They are out to get us..


*What did I say again about senior barristers leaving legal aid work?*

Many thanks to UK Barristers on Twitter for this one.

By they I of course mean the LSC, the dreaded legal services commission, that just happens to grant legal aid to cases. (In the photo the man represents the LSC obviously pointing and aiming at all the fat cat barristers, vulnerable families and people who may have committed a crime)

We have seen what has happened previously with the VHCC contract scheme, which many barristers including Simon Myerson refused to sign. The barristers that did sign it were referred to as "scabs".

Now why is it that the LSC is determined to undermine the livelihoods of those who practice at the publicly funded bar?

This story also popped into my inbox ,which was very familiar of Barrister Belle's story here.

Of course now more than ever public spending cuts have to be made, and such cuts will be justified because of the 'recession' however these plans I believe to cut legal aid have been going on for a long time, we've had the Lord Carter Report on Legal Aid and why should public spending cuts be to justice? Is this not integral and fundamental to our society?

One can only predict the various alternative futures that may happen due to legal aid cuts, senior members of the Bar no longer taking on legal aid work, a two tier profession developing where the Criminal and Family Bar no longer attract the best or brightest, and earn a fraction of their Civil Bar counterparts.

If there isn't enough money for criminal work then solicitor firms will be even further squeezed to do advocacy work in house then the criminal Bar will become what? In fluctuated with HCA's who may or may not be good should we then rename the criminal Bar to the Higher Court Advocates' Association? Because it certainly looks like it is going that way.

I sometimes feel like Cassandra saying that the sky is going to fall down, I mainly post on criminal matters and about wanting to go into practice, The Future of the Criminal Bar, and Not a good time to be a criminal barrister part I and partII all outline my thoughts on the matter..

So why isn't anyone doing anything about it? What can the Bar do to stop what will be in effect people receiving injustice from a system that is underpaid and overworked. There have been talks of strikes in the past of those doing criminal work, however reluctantly no one actually agrees...

Is it time to take a stand? To say actually no, this isn't the way forward...?!

Who knows? I don't.

Monday, 20 April 2009

New Anon Witness Case: R v Powar

R v Powar & Another [2009] All ER (D) 45 (Apr) in the Court of Appeal

Two defendants were convicted of murder of the deceased.
The judge granted anonymity orders the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act 2008
(Soon to be in the Coroners and Justice Bill 2009)
Appeal was on three grounds
(1)Whether the order would have been given if at the time the statute was in place.
(2)Whether conditions A-C were met.
(3)Whether the conviction was unsafe

(1) Condition A
Anonymity orders should not just be defined to gangland killings or crimes of violence.
Condition A (s4(3) protect serious damage to witness or to property as further defined in subsection 6
subsection 6 (a) serious injury or death to the witness, or serious damage to the property.
R v Mayers applied.

(2) Condition B
In regards to a defendant having the right to know the identify of his accuser (big in R v Davis)
The court held that there was a delicate balance to be made between the rights of the witness (right to life and right to privacy)
and the rights of the defendant.
There was a strong case against the defendant's without the eye witness's evidence.
R v Mayers applied.

(3) Condition C
It was in the public interest to have the orders granted. They were unlikely to testify against the defendants if they were not granted (they lived on the same street as the defendants)


The Court of Appeal seem to have got it right on this one, the second appeal case to come to the Court of Appeal on this particular act
Though as the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act 2008 is due to
expire in December 2009 I wonder how many new cases will come before the court.
In R v Davis the House of Lords held that witness anonymity was unlawful that the defendant had a right to face his accusers.
That a conviction based solely on the evidence of anonymous witnesses was unlawful and such convictions should be treated as unsafe.
Most of the House of Lord's concerns made it into the act, albeit into s 5(2) (a)-(f) which a judge only has to have reference to.
One does wonder how the new Act which is tabled to for the Coroners and Justice Bill will turn out and whether Parliament will give it any more detail and be slightly more fleshed out.
It was if you remember passed 3 days after the House's ruling in R v Davis.

Conditions A-C must be met otherwise an order will not be treated as lawful, however it does appear that to a certain degree they will always be met quite easily.
Condition A - which refers to the safety of witnesses or serious damage to property.
Will likely always be satisfied, whether or not there is a reasonable fear or being harmed.
Is it a good thing that it can be easily satisfied?

Condition B - the right to a fair trial - the Court has described this as a delicate balancing act.
A fair trial (and I agreed with their Lordships in R v Davis) cannot take place if the conviction of a defendant rests solely on evidence from anon witnesses.
Who the defendant cannot effectively probe to see if they are lying or in the case of multiple witnesses against the defendant,
cross examine to see if they have been collaborating.(Though covered by s 5(2)(e) however Judges must only have regard to it)

Condition C - says Courts must regard that (a) it is important that the witness testifies, and (b) that the witness would not testify if the order was made(but for causal question to think about)

So it seems likely in any case that an anonymity order will be upheld.

The only successful appeal against conviction (under the new act) using anonymous evidence, was R v Mayers (conjoined appeals, 4 appeals from defendants, one from the prosecution)
(Mayer's conviction was unsafe because of a dodgey witness)

Friday, 17 April 2009

Official! I am a terrorist & the Scholarship Interview

Yes I am a terrorist...

Yesterday at Mile End station I was stopped under the Terrorism Act 2000. As I was walking into the station to see if they had a photo booth so I could partake in some rather ugly photos of myself to give to the scholarship panel at Middle Temple the next day.

I admit I did look a bit suspicious, a 6ft man with glasses wearing a duffle coat with the hood up because it was raining outside.

The police officer approached me
"Excuse me Sir?"
"Yes" I replied.
"We are asking people to have a voluntary stop and search"
"Right ok.... do you not need a reasonable suspicion to stop and search me voluntarily?"
"No we are stopping you under the Terrorism Act"
"Ah, I see, and what section of the Terrorism Act?"
"Section 44.."
"and what does that say?"
"erm... well basically we can stop you...."

As I seemed to become a nuisance to the police officers (whom I believe were not actual police officers, for they had those funny yellow patches on their uniform.) I was pulled aside by another officer who explained that they wouldn't take my details only my description (one assumes so as not to appear to be targeting the young asian youths that populate Mile End)

After they checked my bag I was free to go, and I walked out of the tube station, which they might of thought of as weird, but I didn't even want to use the tube!

The Scholarship Interview
It went ok.. I arrived just in the nick of time, as I had to make an unexpected change at Bank because of the escalator works.. got there on time and found Middle Temple(which I had never visited before) went up to the main building and asked the very nice gentleman.
"Excuse me do you know where Porter's Lodge is?"
To which they replied "ermm hmmm....." looking directly at the sign that said "Porters Lodge".. I felt a bit stupid however I was glad I was in the right place and just in time too!

As I went to sit outside the interview room whilst the lovely clerk went to photograph my BVC offer letter I could hear the panel talking about how good the girl was who went before me! Nothing like extreme competition to make you more nervous.

I went in they introduced themselves, and lucky me there was a criminal practitioner in there!
They asked me general questions about my work at the LAC, why would I make a good barrister.. what area I was interested in, what the most important thing I had learnt on my mini-pupillage, any interesting legal stories, then about a DNA database.

If I were the panel I would have probably scored me half marks... I had a rather tricky situation of trying to use something creative that I learnt on my mini-pupillage the idea of a "poker face" That when the prosecution is cross examining defendant witnesses a defence barrister will make certain faces in shot of the jury to suggest that the questioning was harsh or uncalled for.

The panel instead said "so the opposite of a poker face?" and I humbly agreed with them.

I then talked about the G20 protest in which the man died, I was asked what charge I would bring against the officer, I said common assault, to which the male barrister said "not manslaughter then?" COMPLETELY forgetting that the man had actually died.

They asked which Law would i reform in the Criminal Justice System and I replied with RIPA. Which caught the attention of the criminal practitioner.

Perhaps a better moment was when I was asked how do I think junior practionners cope at the Bar..

I answered it from a Criminal perspective said with the usual miss match of saying it was very competitive, there aren't a lot of pupillage about(slightly irrelevant) and the impact of the Lord Carter reforms for those people doing legal aid and the fact that it will become a struggle until one is more established...

Though I was a bit weak on the DNA database question, what is a reason for not keeping the DNA evidence if I were completely exonerated of a crime... questions followed from that what is the difference between CCTV and DNA database to which I replied that CCTV doesn't work and DNA is quite specific, which repeatedly came out of my dry mouth as SPASIFIC.

There was no chance to mention my mooting! So after the panel had concluded I managed to slip in that I was a semi finalist in a national mooting competition. The male barrister replied with" oh good you can moot for Middle Temple next year!"

I'm not sure how it all went, the more I think about it the more I try to nit pick and decide that I was crap... I shall have to see when I get the results in a few weeks!

Until then more revision!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Legal Aid Work

Barrister Belle Turner in a recent article for the times found here explains how she can no longer afford to take on legal aid work.

The article does discuss some rather interesting points for any of us who are considering legally aided based careers such as those of us who want to do Criminal work (Bar or Bust, Rock n Roll Law and myself included)

£5.90 an hour? I am not sure if this is the same for criminal cases as I am currently ignorant of what rates people actually get paid.

But this is more discerning for those of us who want to do legal aid work.
As Simon Myerson QC says on his blog - there may well be a case that legal aided work no longer attracts the best and brightest.

Now I realised that choosing a career in Criminal Law wouldn't be extremely glamorous I am more interested in it because the law interests me more than anything else, its people orientated and sometimes people are innocent and need good representation, but how can anyone want to represent a client for £5.90 an hour? Whilst I didn't expect to be rolling around in Louis Vitton bedsheets, I did expect that I would make a reasonable living after all I have racked up a HUGE amount of debt already and I am still yet to embark on the BVC.

There was a report elsewhere that most barristers would drop legally aided work if the Carter reforms were implemented as it simply would not be worth their while. Of course the LSC would refute this and say that people will always continue to do work.. yes I gather that people would still continue to do the work, but not senior members of the bar who are best equipped to do it, rather junior members trying to pay off their extortionate fees.. moreover if there is such little money going about it really looks like the criminal Bar will dissolve rather sadly.

This is all rather worrying after being told repeatedly by a very senior academic that he is always told that the Criminal Bar is dying and now seeing what this barrister is actually being paid it really does make me think is it all worth it?? I want to be a barrister but do I want to be a barrister THAT badly...

Then again I had a look on the pupillage portal and there are some sets that do purely crime that are offering £15k-30k during pupillage...? What does this mean? I am caught between two conflicting ideas one that says you can have a medicore life but will not be earning shit loads unlike a civil barrister and one that says you will basically be paid less than a cleaner...

Perhaps I'll become a lecturer instead...

Thursday, 9 April 2009


I can only express my EXTREME disappointment with the organisers of the moot competition am I in.

They have given us yet ANOTHER contract law problem again concerning UCTA. Now this was somewhat covered in the 2nd round moot, and I am surprised it has returned again to rear its horrifically ugly head.

Surprisingly all my knowledge of contract law comes from mooting as being a juvenile in my first year I decided that I would not need to know about it when pursuing a career in Criminal Law.

Alas I now wish I had done more... the moot is next month after my exams so hopefully I will have enough time to celebrate finishing university (is that celebrate or cry uncontrobally about having to now be a responsible adult?)

The moot must go on!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Mooting Do's and Dont's

*Editing of my profound attack on the english language in this post will commence shortly*

Perhaps BoB can collaborate on a project with me entitled Mooting: A novice's guide however for the time being escaping from the bore that is jurisprudence revision (or is that learning) I shall suggest some Mooting Don'ts, many of which I have learned from past experience and dare I suggest what I have learnt from the mistakes of other mooters.

Mooting Dont's to being with

1. Do not under prepare your bundle.
Your bundle should include.
(a) FULL COPIES of the cases that you are using from the LAW REPORTS.
Only in extreme circumstances should you be permitted to use a print off from Westlaw or any other such Law software. PDFs of the Law Reports themselves can be found on Westlaw at the top right hand side of the case you are viewing. Click "Download in PDF format" and TA DA it appears as if by magic to be a scanned copy of the Law report you are using.

Print offs from Westlaw look well... shit.. not only are you putting yourself at a disadvantage for marks down on your bundle you are also looking unprofessional. If you can't find the PDF on Westlaw then go to the library and photocopy it from the law report itself. There is simply no excuse unless the case is from 1600-1850.

Using print offs from Westlaw can lead to extreme annoyance of the opposition viciously swearing and getting into a tantrum because if you are using a joint bundle they cannot find the correct quotes due to it not being in the same format.

(b) Tabs - these tabs should be either numbered or alphabetised (numbered is prefered) and a contents page should be at the front of the bundle indicating what is at each tab. Again it is not really acceptable to label your tabs "Hadley v Baxendale" or "Victoria Newman Industries" they should be numbered.

(c) A copy of your skeleton argument - now it depends which mooting competition you are in but a mooting argument should really just be what court your hypothetical case is in, grounds of appeal and under each Ground of appeal your submissions, under each submission the authorities you intend to rely upon and learned articles. Neither I or my moot partner believe in reiterating the facts of the present case. A concise skeleton has no need for being more than a page long.

2. Do not read from a speech.

(a) Mooting is really a conversation between you and the judge. It should be a relaxed conversation though sometimes you are put on the spot and it can get heated. You should however be aiming to guide the judge through the law, not just reading him your essay.
(b) This is something I am very guilty of, I often very sneakily only completed my speech the night before a moot, this has several disadvantages. In reality you should finish your moot speech at least a few days before you're actual moot. You then have time to go through it, get some rest rethink it and tweak it if it does not sound right.
(c) Even if you have started off with a speech you can considerably change it down after a few attempts at practising it to bullet points with just the key quotations you need to use, if a speech is well practised then this will be easy.
(d) Cue Cards - not liked by Mr Myerson QC, favoured by all the mooting books. My own opinion, it would be easier to stick to what my mooting partner calls an "expanded skeleton" which is a simplified version of what he is going to say on 4 pieces of paper with all his key quotes on. If this is how you work best then that's fine, however flicking through cue cards at speed is quite difficult, shifting through 4 pieces of paper isn't.

3. Do not read out the moot problem question
(a) When asking the learned judge if he/she is aware of the facts of the case before them and they say a "brief" summary, that is what they want, a brief summary. Please try and refrain from reading out the entire moot problem as it was given to you!
(b) This also applies to any other case you are citing, unless the case includes Top Grade Pigs, if in that instance it does, the facts of the case must deservedly be fully read out as they are stated in the actual case.

4. Do not tell a judge you will come onto the point they have just asked you about later.
(a) By all means you might tell the judge that you were going to address that specific point later on, however as the point as now been raised you will address his lordship on the point. Merely acknowledging that they have asked you a question and then saying "yes but I would like to continue with my own submissions" is not good practice. Some judges like to test your flexibility.

Please note: that not all judges liked being told that were going to be addressed on that point and you are going to it now, but would prefer you to just deal with the point.

5. Don't stay up all night drinking red bull to get it done.
(a) You will be a shaking nervous wreck, if your voice doesn't sound nervous your hands will definitely give away that you have been up all night.
(b) You should have done enough work spread across a longer period of time to enable that you get all your work done at least a few days before your moot.
(c) I am guilty of both of the above and lost an important moot because of it.

6. Don't play with your quotes.
(a) Don't put emphasis on particular lines of your quotes, read as is. Whilst it may sound (to you) that the law is in your favour a judge may ask you at the end of quoting your passage to read the paragraph properly.
(b) This also applies when you skip words.
(c) This also applies to when you stop a quote before the judgment then considers that the above reasoning is wrong and should be overruled.
(d) To read a long passage or not? - I still don't have enough mooting experience for this and I gather than each individual judge would be different, seeking permission to quote a huge piece of text is advisable, you can point their lordships to the paragraph and particular lines they should be looking to. I was recently told that I shouldn't ask if I could read out the passage, because a judge might turn around and say "no" then where would you be? A few minutes short of your time, unable to put your point across?" If in doubt just read. Though passages should not be to lengthy and normally a judge will ask you "whats the point of this passage Mr X?"

That's it for the time being :)