Confederation Report (August 2011)

As I sit here in my garret tower in Pembrokeshire, we are at the end of July. The year has once again whizzed past. Last time I penned this column, we anticipated the Legal Aid White paper with the resigned feeling of Blackadder about to go over the top. “A cunning play Baldrick? Well I’m afraid it will have to wait”.

What more could they do to us?

Well, now we know. Basically, no more funding for Immigration, social welfare, divorce... and some loony idea about means testing in the police station. Oh yes. I can see the feasibility of having to ring the LSC’s successor at 3am to find out if I can go to Haverfordwest for a violent disorder. It now appears that that bit was “a mistake”. NO, the whole thing is a mistake.

And a rapid scan of the LS Gazette on July 14th made the bad times worse:

  • “Immigration adviser folds”
  • LSC warned ministers on cuts – “reductions may result in market failure”.
  • Family courts expect more litigants in person.
  • Processing of Legal Aid Applications delayed.

When you add to that the fact that the representative groups (including the Law Society and Bar Council) were only given FIFTEEN MINUTES each to give evidence to the cross-party scrutinising the Legal Aid demolition, you realise that Parliament as a whole doesn’t give a fig about social injustice.

It’s a bit like Harry Potter against dark Lord Voldermort – only Harry (us) may get swallowed by the nasty snake in this version! (odd times- no more Harry – my kids have grown up with him!)

Bad times indeed!

The only good bits to emerge were that will writers who aren’t Solicitors look like they will be regulated (about time!); and that interpreters, who cost the court over £60 million now, are going to be cut down to £42 million. (I smiled at this, because ten years ago I suggested to Irvine of Lairg, the then Lord Chancellor, that they should be employed as a national service on a salary. And that he buy his soft furnishings from IKEA. Neither were considered then.)

So how much time do we have? Well not long, because this new lot (as bad as the last lot) seem determined to make cuts within days of announcements.

No doubt there will be a “consultation period” (as SHORT a time as is imaginable), where we will raise a stink, cause as much brouhaha as possible and then they will implement it anyway.

I mean to say, this is all such guff and nonsense. The effect on our supposedly civilised country is going to be drastic. It is probably an imponderable to speculate what WILL be the outcome but it won’t be positive.

(On imponderables; What was the best thing before sliced bread? Why do Bankruptcy lawyers expect to be paid? How does the snow-plough driver get to work? What if the Hokey Cokey IS what it is all about? And how come you never see the headline “Psychic wins Euro Millions Lottery?”)

Except that the coalition DO seem to change their minds about things. Faint hope, but then hope springs eternal!

Since I seem to have developed a theme about time, I shall report on some GOOD times.

The Confederation Summer Bash was brilliant

Michael Walters and Richard Fisher put on a great night of entertainment. Those of you who missed out are to be pitied – as are those who wanted to come but were too late as the tickets were totally sold out. We had a lot of fun, and great entertainment from the bands. Roll on next year!

“Time and tide wait for no man”, as Chaucer said in the Canterbury Tales (except when he wrote it, it was more like “Thyme and Tidde doth notte tarrye forr menne”). And I was reminded of just that when playing for Cardiff Law Society against Swansea, as my fellow ex-Pres, Mark “Yess, Noooo, Sorry!” Harvey, ran me out in the final over of our innings. Just as I was poised to make a half century! (well to be honest I was four with two balls left, but I’m an optimist).

To be fair, we had done quite well, as we only had seven men, skipper James Davenport having been promised by FOURTEEN supposedly mad keen Cardiff Solicitors (most of who were actually young enough to have run Mark and my aborted run without wheezing and panting and having defibrillators at regular intervals around the beautiful Cathedral School Ground and in about a tenth of the time), but loads dropped out without enough notice to get replacements. A real shame.

“Time’s winged charlot” for your humble correspondent, was more akin to a 1955 Ford Prefect than a Ferrari. As I write, I’m still sore and stiff.

So, in the immortal words of Delia Smith “where are ya”?

These “local derbies” used to be the highlight of the year, with bodies queuing to take part.

Swansea Solicitors, as ever, had a very good team (unfairly, I thought, made up of the customary 11 men) and they did beat us, but not without a good scrap. Well done them! Well done the (mostly) Magnificent Seven. So come on lads (or lassies – just remember Rachael Heyhoe Flint - one of the great names of cricket!)

Remaining on the “Sporty Solicitor” theme, you will see have seen on the cover the photographic souvenir of the Cardiff Academicals tour of Prague of a month ago. As some of you will know, the club was formed by Cardiff lawyers and, of the 25 man touring party, no fewer than 11 were either present or past Cardiff Solicitors, and there they all are on the Charles Bridge, in front of Saint Wadisiwski or some such. He being the Czech patron Saint of Lawyers. Incredible! If we had a Saint Sue Grabbitt-Run, the statue would be desecrated on a daily basis. In Prague, however, only the pigeons are disrespectful.

It was a terrific tour, the club being honoured with games against the Prague Golden Tigers (a pub team made up entirely of former 2nd and 3rd Division Czech League players), who we took on about 10 minutes after getting off the aeroplane, and lost 5-2 against. We used all 25 tourists during the match, and then the following day divided into the “Over 35’s” and “Over 45’s” for matches against Slavia Prague and Sparta Prague respectively.

The “Youth team” took on the former, playing in an incredible 8-6 defeat, with Tim Lucas (of Lucas Law) getting a hat-trick.

The rather more elderly were up against the current Czech Champions, at their “reserve ground”, which was designed to hold 200,000!!!!

Despite disguising myself in a Czech Army hat, and mingling with the vast crowd (there were three of us, and the other two were groundsmen!), our manager managed to catch me, and I played the last twenty five minutes.

And what a triumph! We lost 4-2 against a team made up entirely of former Czech Internationals.

I had hoped to be the oldest player on the park, but was beaten by a 72 year old who had played in the Olympic Final of 1962 ! AND when I shook hands with him at the end, with me spurting perspiration (like a hose pipe which has been run over by a lawn mower), he was drier than one of those “Sure for men” ads – and he played the whole match!

The tour was not without controversy, and it is with deep regret that I must report that “Bad Body Andy Owen of Abses”, once again found himself deep in the do-do. This time he went AWOL on the first night, pleading jet lag. (Flight time was less than two hours). He was brought before the Accie Supreme Disciplinary panel, pleaded a defence of Insanity, and very nearly swung the jury vote, by reciting the whole of “American Pie” as his evidence. It was an impressive performance and had several of the jurors on the verge of tears and acquittal. Close then, despite his choice of Andrew Shanahan as defence counsel. (And those of you normally impressed by Shan’s genius as an advocate would have been appalled – we think he was bribed to throw the case!)

To be fair the prosecutor Mike “Woody” Imperato (Yes, THAT Mike, the Cardiff President who you will see in the photo) swung the conviction by calling a resident war criminal, who showed Andyo to be completely sane, if eccentric. As I was the judge, he never had a chance anyway! So he joins my parade of villains of this month’s piece, along with Mark Harvey and the entire coalition Government.

Until the next time

Mumf

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