Marx on Monday – destruction of our criminal justice system

I don’t know about you but it makes me sick to my stomach to hear fat cat barristers bleating on about the proposed changes to legal aid. “We can barely afford petrol for our BMWs” is a complaint often heard, or “things are getting so bad that we might have to take Tarquin out of Eton” is another one.

Since 1673 barristers have been protected from cuts in legal aid spending by a succession of Lord Chancellors drawn from the ranks of the bar. Knowing that, after they have been voted out of office, they would probably be going back to the bar, they have ensured that barristers’ pay remains astronomically high.

Thank goodness, then, that David Cameron has had the courage and wisdom to appoint the first non-lawyer Lord Chancellor for 340 years – Chris Grayling.

I heard an interview with him on Radio 4 last week and I liked what I heard. Veteran right wing broadcaster John Humphrys was his usual belligerent self but Chris shot him down in flames.

“So Chancellor,” Humphrys badgered him from the start, “you’re the first non-lawyer to be appointed Lord Chancellor since 1673?”

“I may not be a qualified barrister,” said Grayling, “but as their job involves telling lies for money I feel like an honorary one.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because I’m a compulsive liar,” Grayling replied, “when I was at the Department of Work and Pensions I was caught out lying several times. I lied about the level of fraud amongst benefit claimants. I lied about the number of people claiming disability benefit who were not disabled. I lied about the crime figures under the last Labour government. To be honest with you, which I rarely am, I’m happier lying than I am telling the truth. I would have made an excellent barrister.”

“Is that the only quality which makes you a suitable Lord Chancellor,” Humphrys pressed him, “the fact that you are a compulsive liar?”

“Absolutely not,” the Chancellor replied, “I’m also a hypocrite.”

“In what way are you a hypocrite?”

“When I was in opposition I accused David Blunkett of being corrupt. I went at him like an attack dog. It upset him so much he resigned. I also criticised Tony Blair about money he received from lectures.”

“So why is that hypocritical?”

“Because as soon as the Tories were in government I couldn’t wait to get my nose into the trough,” the Chancellor replied, “I was made employment secretary and tasked with finding a company to carry out our flagship “work programme.” I chose Deloittes.”

“Why was that, was it because you thought that they would provide the best service at the right price?”

“Absolutely,” the Chancellor laughed, “their’s was clearly the best bid. They’re a fantastic company.”

“But didn’t they give you a donation of £28,000 shortly before the contracts were awarded to them.”

“They certainly did,” Grayling replied, “like I said they’re a fantastic company.”

“But haven’t some people, like Labour MP John Robertson, accused you of breaching the Ministerial Code by accepting a £28,000 donation from a company you subsequently awarded a billion pound government contract to?”

“Rubbish – it was merely a coincidence that the best bidder was also the company that gave me £28,000,” Grayling set the record straight, “anyway, John Robertson is a fine one to talk. He claimed £1,750 parliamentary expenses in petty cash – and £350 for a Sat Nav from Currys.”

“Weren’t you also criticized over your parliamentary expenses?”

“Why is the trough there if not to put your snout into it John? I own a house about fifteen miles from the House of Commons but realised that if I bought one closer I could do it up on the taxpayer.”

“So what did you do?”

“I already had a couple of houses in Wimbledon, but that’s barely closer than my main home, so I bought a flat in Pimlico and charged the British taxpayers a fortune. I had a new kitchen put in, and a new bathroom. I had so much work done it cost almost double the maximum MP’s expenses allowance.”

“So what did you do?”

“My builder only billed me for half of the work in the first financial year,” Grayling replied, “then billed me for the second half in the following financial year. That meant the British taxpayers would pick up the whole tab.”

“But wasn’t that dishonest?”

“Absolutely not,” Grayling protested, “the truth is, as I explained to the parliamentary standards committee, although my builder seemed to manage carrying bathroom suites up two flights of stairs without any difficulty, he was too ill to sit down and send me an invoice for all of the work he carried out – so he sent me a bill for half in one tax year – and a bill for the other half in the following tax year. Hence, by a sheer stroke of luck, I was able to claim it all on parliamentary expenses.”

“And what about your two houses in Wimbledon?”

“I rent them out.”

“Who to?”

“Anybody who is prepared to pay the rent as long as they don’t have dogs or aren’t gay.”

“What do you mean, “aren’t gay?””

“Landlords shouldn’t be forced to rent their houses to gay people,” the Chancellor shuddered, “it’s like those Bed and Breakfast owners who wouldn’t let a gay couple spend the night there. In my view they were fully entitled to turn them away.”

“Isn’t that a bit homophobic?”

“I resent being called homophobic,” the Chancellor protested, “some of my best friends are gay. I just don’t think that hotel owners should be forced to accept gay guests – that’s all.”

“There have been a lot of protests from senior lawyers like Tony Hooper that your plans for legal aid reform will cause untold damage to the English Legal System,” said Humphrys, “what do you say about that?”

“Who the hell is Tony Hooper,” Grayling replied, “and what does he know about the English Legal System?”

“Mr Justice Sir Anthony Hooper QC,” Humphrys tried to big him up, “was at the criminal bar for 30 years then sat as a High Court Judge for 17 years.”

“So he’s just another self-interested fat cat lawyer who is worried that the legal aid cuts will hurt him in the pocket,” Grayling sneered.

“He retired in 2012,” Humphrys replied, “he’s 76 years old.”

“There are always cranks out of step with the rest of opinion,” said Grayling, “this Hooper fellow, whoever he is, is just a lone voice.”

“But aren’t your plans opposed by every judge, barrister and solicitor in the country. Don’t they all warn that your plans will destroy the centuries old criminal justice system?”

“Yes,” the Chancellor sighed, “but they’re all missing the point.”

“And why’s that?”

“Because my job is to completely destroy the centuries old criminal justice system,” Grayling replied, “I intend to dismantle it root and branch and make massive savings on public spending. That way there will be more money in the exchequer to allow me to buy and renovate some more houses on expenses.”

“And how do you intend to destroy the criminal justice system?”

“It’s a three pronged attack,” Grayling replied, “first we’re going to decimate the judge’s pensions to dissuade current lawyers from applying to become judges, then we’re going to reduce barristers fees to, in some cases, £14 a day, to force the entire criminal bar into bankruptcy, then we’re going to freeze out most firms of solicitors by not granting them a contract to do legal aid work.”

“What,” Humphrys sounded incredulous, “you’re going to close down all firms of solicitors?”

“Not initially,” said Grayling, “just the smaller firms at first, you know, all those small Asian and black firms that have sprung up over the last twenty years.”

“So you really are setting out to destroy the entire criminal justice system?”

“Absolutely,” the Chancellor agreed, “like Shakespeare said, “the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.””

“But when Dick the Butcher said let’s kill all the lawyers to Jack Cade in Henry vi part 2 wasn’t that because he thought that was the quickest way to destroy society – to destroy the system of law and order?”

“Did he?” Grayling sounded confused, “well we’re not going to destroy the system, we’re just going to destroy the judiciary, the bar and solicitors.”

“So who is going to run the legal system?” Humphrys pressed him.

“That’s already been arranged,” Grayling replied, “Eddie Stobart.”

“What the haulage company?”

“That’s right,” Grayling agreed, “they’ll run the whole system. They’ll pick up the defendant from prison in their lorry and take them to court – then the driver will put on a wig and gown and do the advocacy.”

“But didn’t Mr Justice Eady describe Stobart’s legal director, Trevor Howarth, as being consistently slapdash and unbelievably incompetent?” Humphrys asked.

“I think he might have,” Grayling conceded, “and he said Howarth exhibited a cavalier approach and didn’t give cases their proper attention.”

“And didn’t he stand trial for offences of dishonesty?”

“I think he might have done yes,” Grayling admitted.

“And wasn’t he only found not guilty because he claimed he wasn’t being dishonest – but was simply incompetent because – although he was dealing with criminal cases, he has no legal qualifications whatsoever?”

“He might not have been a qualified lawyer,” Grayling objected, “but he was still doing a very good job.”

“But didn’t the clients who followed his advice end up going to prison for perverting the course of justice?”

“Yes I think they might have done,” Grayling admitted, “but it was clearly a miscarriage of justice.”

“But unless we want miscarriages of justice,” said Humphrys, “aren’t people accused of crime entitled to be represented by a qualified lawyer?”

“Probably,” the Chancellor was forced to agree, “but where are you going to get a lawyer who’ll work for £14 a day?”

“So what’s the timescale,” Humphrys asked, “when will Stobart take over the running of the criminal justice system?”

“There’s been a bit of a delay,” Grayling replied, “because the Stobart chief executive Andrew Tinkler, and legal director Trevor Howarth are facing trial for contempt of court. They are both alleged to have lied to the courts to get an innocent man sent to prison. If convicted they face prison sentences. We think that, on balance, it might be difficult for them to run the entire criminal justice system from their prison cell.”

“So will they be represented in court by two of their own lorry drivers?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the Chancellor laughed, “our new justice system is only for poor people – rich people like Tinkler and Howarth will be able to afford proper barristers to represent them.”

“Well Lord Chancellor,” Humphrys concluded, “it seems to me that if your plans are successful they will destroy the international reputation that our criminal justice system has built up over the eight hundred years since Magna Carta; will throw thousands of lawyers out of work – particularly those from ethnic minority backgrounds; will result in thousands of miscarriages of justice – with innocent people being convicted and guilty and dangerous people being acquitted and freed to roam the streets and will make our criminal justice system the laughing stock of the world.”

“That may well be right,” Grayling replied, “but it will be a lot cheaper. We’ll make savings of £220 million a year.”

“But isn’t that rather less than the £280 million your government gives India every year to help pay for its £780 million a year space programme?”

“It’s all about priorities,” replied the Chancellor, “I don’t think there are many people out there who would argue that the destruction of our criminal justice system is a small price to pay for helping India send a rocket to Mars.”

4 comments on “Marx on Monday – destruction of our criminal justice system

  1. Phil B
    June 10, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    “destroy the international reputation that our criminal justice system has built up over the eight hundred years since Magna Carta” and “will result in thousands of miscarriages of justice – with innocent people being convicted and guilty and dangerous people being acquitted and freed to roam the streets and will make our criminal justice system the laughing stock of the world.”

    Errr … correct me if I’m wrong here but isn’t that the case right now?

  2. Save Probation
    June 16, 2013 at 12:52 am #

    Failing Grayling is the biggest enemy of Justice & the State.

    Very soon an individual will be able to be investigated by G4S police staff, prosecuted by a G4S prosecutor (without access to legal aid), in a G4S Court, before being taken in a G4S security van to a G4S prison, to be locked in and mistreated by poorly paid G4S Prison Officers and rehabilitated and mismanaged on release by unskilled G4S Probation Officers (probably while having restricted access to welfare or being creamed and parked on an A4E work programme). This is madness and nothing to do with saving money or cutting crime!! We need to stop this man before we have no Justice System left.

    Sign the Petition: Do Not Privatise the Probation Service


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