Friday, 4 April 2008


So it’s official – the lunatics are running the asylum! I refer, of course, to the news that unqualified Crown Prosecution Service “paralegals” are now to be entrusted with the conduct of summary trials in Magistrates Courts, as well as the more routine applications and guilty pleas in low grade crime.

To those of us toiling away at the coalface, it comes as no surprise, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Soon, these unqualified “paralegals” will be conducting Crown Court prosecutions along with their more senior ‘in house’ colleagues, as they grope uneasily from one crisis to another in the interests of justice. Next they’ll be wearing wigs and gowns and calling each other “my learned friend,” a misnomer if ever there was one, and the independent Bar will be helpless to stem the tide, just as they have been since the inception of publicly funded crime.

It comes as no surprise because this has been the agenda of successive governments since the blessed St. Margaret appointed Lord Clash of McFern as her curmudgeonly Lord Chancellor in 1986. His brief, which he accepted with typical Presbyterian relish, was to reduce the legal aid burden on the taxpayer at any price, and the price was economy, stupid, at the expense of quality of service.

As it was then, is now, and publicly funded crime is budget driven. The government is a monopoly provider, so they set the agenda and the terms of engagement, and if the legal profession don’t like it, they can lump it. So a word to the wise – if you can find a proper day job, go for it, and go for it now!

Pay peanuts and you get monkeys, and sadly in our profession, we have a cartload and more at the Treasury’s beck and call. Good luck, and may the road rise with you!

But I have a sneaking suspicion there’s another, hidden, agenda in all this. The facts speak for themselves. The prisons, police and court cells are full to bursting, so what better way to reduce overcrowding than to enrol “paralegals” to prosecute? Don’t forget that 80% of all criminal cases are determined in the Magistrates Courts, so with the “paralegals” at the helm, the conviction rates will reduce to a trickle, and at a stroke, our lords and masters will have achieved a number of memorable goals – they’ll get bargain basement prosecutors on minimum wage, a greatly reduced prison population, so fewer prison officers and support staff, all of whom can be made redundant, leaving only the editor of the Daily Mail to fulminate. A small price to pay, and with £110 billion on the Northern Rocks, a price worth paying!