I sound like one of those American survivalists. I’ll be sat in Chambers with huge stock piles of pink tape, biscuits and counsel’s notebooks. At night I will sleep on the library floor and burn a copy of Halsbury’s for warmth. I’ll have enough tunic shirts dry cleaned and pressed so I can go to Court three weeks straight.
The Olympics are upon us. In the pub, the robing room, the library, people are wondering if all the train stations will be finished. Others wonder if the hospitals will cope or their holidays be disrupted.
But I’m wondering what’s going to happen to the Courts.
We’re expecting at least 450000foreignvisitors to the capital. That’s about 10 times London’s permanent population of Americans or Australians.
There’ll be domestic visitors too.
And it’s not only London, Coventry, Eton, Manchester, Weymouth and my own Wimbledon.
Preparation, preparation, preparation
We have seen the Met and BTP pretend to blow up a train station. The Marines have been throwing stun grenades on the old Thames Clipper. Even ‘Housemate’ been preparing one of London’s most major services.
Because, more people, means more use of services. More people means more risk.
And Courts are a public services.
And like it or not, Courts need various people to run. The criminal courts need cops, Counsel, solicitors, interpreters, witnesses, the works.
Immigration tribunals need UKBA staff, Counsel, solicitors, interpreters.
Extradition courts need Counsel, solicitors and lots and lots of interpreters.
My glass half empty vision
And off the planes, trains and boats will come some tourists, brandishing expensive electronic goods, dripping in Swiss watches and bum bags overflowing with £ sterling. And of course, with them, will come pick pockets, thieves and muggers.
Desperate asylum seekers will take advantage of increased traffic flow and try and stowaway at every port.
People with a past will find themselves flagging on an European Computer system as they cross into the UK. Soon after they’ll find themselves in handcuffs on European arrest warrants.
More work in the criminal court, more work in asylum tribunal and more cases in the extradition court.
Shut up FTD, more work means more money for you – does it?!
My vision of hell
You see, already there’s a shortage of criminal lawyers. London solicitors will be busy during the Olympics. They’ll be in the police station at all hours dealing with those robbers, they’ll be waiting for interpreters and investigating officers. The next day at Court, they’ll have to wait as the security vans take longer to deliver prisoners to Court. The new interpreter booking system which is already malfunctioning will simply fail.
Counsel will not be able to fill the gap, the transport problems will mean that junior counsel are not able to cover two courts in one day. The others will be in rural courts near where a large event has been held, or in the extradition court.
The Courts will have to sit late to try and free up the prison cell spaces.
But they’re already jammed. The extradition cases generated will need to take up all of the remaining places at HMP Wandsworth. There are not sufficient defence extradition solicitors and counsel to cover all the cases. A number of warrants will be discharged as persons arrested on warrants will not be brought to Westminster promptly.
The more senior immigration and extradition practitioners will be queuing up to get cases heard urgently in the High Court. Whilst the more junior practitioners will be queuing up to try and find a single interpreter. Of course they won’t be able to, as now all the Courts use the same limited pool of interpreters.
Solicitors and Counsel will run out of steam quickly.
And they won’t be able to call in reinforcements. The CPS won’t be able to go out to Counsel as they’ll be booked up. They can’t go to other agents as they won’t be on the CPS list.
Lawyers won’t be drafted into London from other parts of the country. Why? Because they’ll be busy with their own increased caseloads. Some smaller places touched by the Olympics will have to call in what few free Counsel are available.
And who is going to pay for all this? How long is it going to take to process legal aid applications? Solicitors firms face being saddled with huge bills from agents and Counsel.
I was speaking to folk in chambers today about all this, the hell that I expect. They all just tell me to chill out. The clerks don’t have any plans apparently.
Well, if I google, I’m sure I’ll find something.
The plans? Close courts, send Judges on holiday… that will free up some police, some barristers, but won’t increase capacity in real terms.
Seems nobody has thought to talk to the lawyers from what I can find.
Maybe I should just chill out and then enjoy the ‘I told you so’ in 150 days time.