Confederation Report (June 2014)

Why do those matters which have sat on your desk assume an inordinate urgency when going on holiday and have to be dealt with immediately? Well... dealt with they were before leaving for my holiday in Crete to visit my daughter and her family. Consequently I did not have time to compile my bi – monthly contribution to Legal News so I thought I would send a postcard from the edge of Europe, well almost and the island that is Crete.

Crete is the Island of Zeus, king of the gods and an island of sunshine. The temperature is presently 30 degrees, lemon and olive trees are before me and the very blue Mediterranean sea is easily visible and a short distance away. This is the view from my daughter Melissa’s home and is very different to the view from the Caerphilly office of Glamorgan Law LLP. Caerphilly Castle is easily visible and impressive in a very different way and usually bathed in grey!

In comparison to the antiquities of Crete the castle at Caerphilly is a relatively modern building. The fort at Aptera, just a short distance from Chania, dates back to the time of Arcadia and Antiquity. The fort is set on a hill not far from the main highway and the site was well known to Phoenicians, Romans Venetians and Turks. It is not hard to imagine it as a busy market and dwelling place but now it is a haven of tranquillity overlooking the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. The view is just spectacular. The palace of Knossos, the reputed home of the Minoan kings, is on the other side of the island at Heraklion and well worth a visit, as are their summer palaces at Phaestos and Gouryths. Crete is also the place of the Dictean cave, hiding place of the child Zeus who was protected by the nymphs from his baby-eating father, Cronus, King of the Titans, stuff of legends and Greek mythology.

Wales also has its ancient myths and legends and most will be familiar with the tales of The Mabinogion. Crete like Wales is part of a bigger nation but there is no indication that Crete is seeking political autonomy. Also both Crete and Wales are incorporated through Greece and the UK into the European Union. When in conversation it soon becomes apparent that Crete and Wales face similar problems. The influx of foreign labour is seen to have forced down wages with immigrants being prepared to work longer hours for less pay. There are legal protections of course by way of the minimum wage but this is not always complied with. Also both have benefited from financial assistance provided by their association with Europe by way of substantial grant aid which has been used to improve the infra- structure of both areas. Unfortunately Crete, as part of Greece, has been left with a huge debt. Despite this there seems to be a general consensus that these problems have to be worked through and that their membership of the European Union is here to stay.

On the home front I would state that I was dismayed that criminal lawyers could not maintain a united front in the fight against the cut backs being imposed in relation to Criminal Legal aid funding. Despite a strong campaign being mounted, it seems the criminal bar capitulated when a more advantageous deal was offered to them. It seems that the new measures as far as the bar is concerned are not to be implemented immediately. Criminal solicitors were left to continue with the fight alone. It seems that this was not a unanimous decision and the majority vote prevailed. Unfortunately this is indicative of the dog eat dog, every man for himself philosophy which prevails throughout the legal profession and which has resulted in a reduction of legal fees over the years. Financial cuts will inevitably curtail the man in the street’s access to justice. The existence of the high street practitioner is further threatened by such cutbacks and one wonders for how much longer will there be sufficient funds and accessibility to support a client’s not guilty plea.

Anyway these matters are far too serious for a girl who is on holiday... the sun sea and Cretan cuisine await. Not to mention the village wine of the house of Makrakkh. Must make the most of it whilst I can!

Hope you can all make the Confederation’s annual summer party, this year to be held at the Swalec Stadium on 26th September - see page 9 for further details. 

Gaynor McCann Davies
President of the Confederation

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