This week's Tuesday Truth is written by Hester Russell Solicitor at Harthills Solicitors and committee member of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association
It’s now about 24 years since I first ventured into a solicitors’ office in
In 2008 I moved into equity partnership at Harthills in
For me the first sign that Christmas is once again around the corner is not the John Lewis advert, nor is it the festive radio playlists; it is the “Christmas on-call rota”. It’s a time of sharing – sharing responsibility that is. There is, of course, no seasonal pay incentive for Criminal practitioners (Thursday 25th December will attract no greater police station fee than any other day since Thursday 20th March when we received an unwarranted 8.75% pay cut). Yet every year, without fail, solicitors across the land volunteer to leave presents unopened, sprouts uneaten and relatives to fend for themselves. We do this not for our own convenience but because we feel a sense of responsibility towards people in crisis; people who need our help.
I wonder what New Years’ resolutions Mr Grayling has planned after what has, for those of us who struggle on within his failing justice system, been an annus horribillis. Will the Ghost of Christmas 2013 visit the Injustice Secretary during his festive slumbers and tell him to take a long hard look at the damage that he has inflicted upon this country during the last twelve months?
23rd December 2013 “Chris Grayling branded ‘a Scrooge’ for banning festive presents for prisoners (The Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/chris-grayling-branded-a-scrooge-for-banning-festive-parcels-for-prisoners-9023211.html# )
6th January 2014 Barristers Strike to delay hearings in protest over cuts in legal aid fees (
Evening Standard http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/barristers-strike-to-delay-court-hearings-in-protest-over-cuts-in-legal-aid-fees-9041297.html
19th February 2014 Chris Grayling is bullying his way to a worse criminal justice system (the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/19/chris-grayling-criminal-justice-system-justice-prisons-probation)
7th March 2014 Lawyers stage second walk out over legal aid cuts (BBC News
2nd April 2014 Grayling, Grayling, Grayling – OUT, OUT, OUT (thejusticegap http://thejusticegap.com/2014/04/grayling-grayling-grayling/ )
26th May 2014 Look who’s talking. Chris Grayling gets a wigging over court translators (the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/26/chris-grayling-court-translators)
26th June 2014 Grayling’s tough justice is as expensive as it is useless (politics.co.uk http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2014/06/26/grayling-s-tough-justice-is-as-expensive-as-it-is-useless)
4th July 2014 Another bad week for Grayling (
19th August 2014 Grayling in a state of unparalleled denial, experts warn (www.poitics.co.uk http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2014/08/19/grayling-denies-prison-crisis-amid-another-damning-report)
19th September 2014 Chris Grayling’s legal aid cuts ‘so unfair they are illegal’, rules High Court (the Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/chris-graylings-legal-aid-cuts-so-unfair-they-are-illegal-rules-high-court-9745175.html#)
27th October 2014 House of Lords votes against Grayling’s plans to restrict judicial review access (the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/27/house-of-lords-defeat-chris-grayling-judicial-review-plan)
16th November 2014 Mr Grayling, how do you account for these prison suicides (the Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/mr-grayling-how-do-you-account-for-these-prison-suicides-9863262.html )
A variety of journalists and a selection of publications, all containing articles that should wake even the most hard-nosed politician from the living nightmare that is being inflicted upon so many within the this country’s faltering legal system. Were Mr Grayling to stop and listen he would surely realise that his policies are reducing access to justice, causing misery, reducing the likelihood of rehabilitation and – tragically – increasing the occurrence of death in custody.
Look to the futureEach of us who abstains from festivities in order to care for the vulnerable should continue to feel pride in the work that we do and feel thankful for the difference that we make. We must continue to use our voices to stand up for the rights of those who are unable to speak up for themselves, and as we approach another year we must work together and do battle against Mr Grayling’s bah humbug attitude to the Criminal Justice System and those within it.