Confederation Report (June 2008)

So much for a quiet semi-retirement. Since my last set of rambling and ranting just after Christmas, much has happened in the life of your correspondent.

Firstly and, to me, sadly, my old firm, Rausa Mumford, has decided to give up doing Legal Aid work, including crime. The new partners have decided that it is just not able to do it without making a loss. It is so very sad that a firm that made its name for mainly criminal litigation now finds itself unable to continue.

I could see the writing on the wall by December and I knew that my consultancy was going to come to an end. So I have finally joined up with Hains & Lewis here in Pembrokeshire. I was at school with Vicki and Dan at Tenby and it was not a difficult decision to become their consultant for two days a week.

My friend and former partner, Martin Olden, is joining forces with Trudy McBride and Marilyn Bishop and they have asked me to be a consultant one day a week, adding to their two other advocates, Carol Anthony and Claire Fear. I am sure they will be successful.

As to my two days a week pursuing other interests, well, it just hasn’t happened. I seem to be working as many hours as before! (And I can hear you all saying: “He didn’t do much anyway.”)

Anyway, today is “Writing Day”, when I tap out my usual pastiche of nonsense for you all to ignore and attempt to show some erudition on opinions on appeal and suchlike.

As I write, I am watching a squirrel (grey, not red, unhappily) vigorously attacking the peanuts that I put out for the birds. The device is supposed to be “squirrel-proof”, but Septimus (for thus have I named him) seems to have no problem with that. He also completely ignores my bellowing at him nowadays, only reluctantly scooting when I actually go outside. My dear departed mother would have dug the shotgun out and attempted to blast him to bits, but I have to say that I rather admire the little beggar’s tenacity.

He reminds me of this wretched Government and its various Departments. He is verminous, gnaws away at any structure he comes across and doesn’t give a damn about what he destroys. There is a nuthatch that occasionally takes him on, but just like us lawyers, it never succeeds to any great extent.

Why no-one on high realises what they are doing simply bemuses me. Since 1997, “New Labour” has introduced THREE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED new pieces of Criminal Legislation. How on earth they expect the Criminal Defence Solicitors of England and Wales to be able to assimilate all these new laws, to work out their effect and then to represent their clients WITHOUT BEING PAID FOR ANY OF THE PROCESS is, quite frankly, contemptuous!

And every day brings a new title for something that had a perfectly adequate name before. FDR for a probation report done on the day (I always thought of the World War II US president when those initials came up) and now “Triple S”. Speedy Summary Something or other, or Simply Sodding Stupid, as I would have it.

“What can we do to make the Defence Lawyers’ job so incredibly difficult that they will finally turn up their toes and fall off the branch?” “I know, let’s have trials listed within 30 second of charge and pay them a standard fee that means they will have to subsist on a diet of Lidl’s own brand lentils.” Roll on the next election - I intend to stand against Gordon “Grumpy with the charisma of a cesspit” Brown under the banner LIAR - Lawyers in Austerity and Rags.

The latest wheeze is to give the Witness Protection Team the cash to ensure that all prosecution witnesses can be collected, taken to court and driven home again. But not, of course, defence witnesses. Very equitable.

I was in Haverfordwest Mags Court last week, when some poor toad, having been convicted in his absence for failing to have a windscreen wiper on his tricycle or some such, was brought to court by the police on a non-appearance warrant from his home in Pontypool. Having been fined a couple of hundred quid including the £15 victim surcharge, he asked, quite reasonably, how he was going to get home without any money. The very nice lady chairman said, “Your solicitor will help you.” Well, Jonathan Webb from Layton & Co wasn’t having that. He told the bench in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t doing anything of the sort! That he was going to be paid far less than the train or bus fare for representing him and that his firm was not a charity.

There was a low growl of smouldering support from the other criminal hacks at that. And there was a delightful sequel outside the court when the prosecuting counsel advised the poor scroat that he should simply get on the Milford Haven to Manchester train and hide in the bog till it arrived at Pontypool!

He eventually got an emergency grant from the DSS, so it all ended happily.

On the same day, I was asked by some feckless youth how he should go about getting an ASBO, as all his mates had one and he felt left out! Days of wonder and glory we live in.

I can’t go without crowing about Welsh rugby triumph. I watched the first half of the Croke Park match in a pub in Reading, having been persuaded by my two student sons to join them in watching our beloved Man City take on the Royals It didn’t look too promising at half time when we left to drive to the Majeski stadium, but, Oh Joy! when at half time we learnt of the Triple Crown win and that Manyoo had lost at home to Pompey in the cup!

All went rather sour after that, with Sven’s lads putting in the most abject performance to ensure a nasty loss. And then I had to shell out vast sums to victual and alcohol-fuel my reptilian heirs, culminating in me sitting in a traffic jam for two hours en route to the Asparagus trenches, whilst they headed off by train for the fleshpots of Olde London Town.

Ho Hum. Could be worse - I could be an Englishman living in Edinburgh and supporting Chelsea.

With all the recent upheaval, I have not been too active on the Confederation front, but April brings two very important meetings which I hope will see the much needed expansion, before the social bash of the year (being organised by Fishy) in the summer.

Until the next time.

Simon Mumford

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