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Criminal law solicitors say Chris Grayling’s legal aid climbdown doesn’t go far enough

A PARTIAL climbdown by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling over legal aid changes has done little to quell fears for the future of Merseyside’s criminal law firms.

Mr Grayling’s controversial plans to introduce a process of competitive tendering for legal aid work have been widely criticised by Merseyside’s legal profession.

The changes would see just 14 contracts awarded among the 46 firms currently carrying out public-funded work in the region.

They could also open the door to non-specialist companies who it is feared could undercut some of Merseyside’s best-known high street firms.

Yesterday Mr Grayling faced MPs on the parliamentary justice select committee and defended the plans.

Claiming the country had “no shortage” of lawyers, he indicated a second round of consultation would be launched later in the year.

Mr Grayling has also indicated one aspect of the changes, denying clients the chance to choose who represents them, could be scrapped.

Zoe Gascoyne, a partner at city centre-based Cobleys Solicitors Ltd, welcomed the apparent change of heart in this area.

She added: “It is clear that at least some of the opposition has got through to the justice secretary.

“It is also welcome news that there will be a second consultation.

“Now we need to keep up the pressure because there is a huge amount more to be done.”

Last month hundreds of solicitors and barristers held a demonstration against the plans outside Liverpool crown court.

Leading figures including the leader of the Northern Circuit of barristers, Rick Pratt QC, gave their support to the campaign, while a petition calling for a rethink has attracted more than 100,000 signatures.

Mr Grayling said he believed there were too many firms fighting over too little work across the country.

Ms Gascoyne said: “That is only a small part of the picture.

“In London they might have a problem with lots of firms setting up, but that is not the case across the country.”

Experts believe thousands of jobs could be placed at risk among people working at all levels of the criminal law in Merseyside.

Ms Gascoyne said: “It’s very far from just affecting lawyers.

“You are looking at all the administration and support staff, claims admin and costs teams - it is a big network of people who work hard and do a good job.”

At the committee meeting, Mr Grayling denied claims some solicitors could be tempted to advise clients to plead guilty as they would be paid the same for a short hearing as for a long, contested trial.

Ms Gascoyne said she did not believe Merseyside firms would go down this route, but that the system could lead clients to question the advice they received and refuse to plead guilty.

She said: “This would ultimately cost the courts more in money and time.”

Lawyers protest at proposed Government changes


If you are against the destruction of UK justice then please sign  #saveukjustice.

Liverpool's legal profession turned out in force today for a protest over planned changes to legal aid.

Solicitors and barristers gathered outside Liverpool crown court this morning to demand a rethink of the Ministry of Justice's plans to introduce more competition to the system.

Under the proposals firms would need to submit bids to take on work, with a limit on contracts set to threaten the future of many firms.

The deadline for responses to the government's consultation is midnight tonight, and legal professionals donned t-shirts and handed out leaflets in a bid to spread their message.

Co-organiser Zoe Gascoyne of Cobleys Solicitors Ltd said she was delighted with the turnout for this morning's event, which included a minute's silence at 9.59am.

She said: "This is not about fat cat lawyers, this is about the total destruction of a criminal justice system that does not need fixing."

Family lawyer Clive Baker of 7 Harrington Street Chambers will not be directly affected by the changes, but said he was attending to reflect the strength of feeling towards the proposals across the profession.

He said: "It is not a system of largesse, it is one that protects an awful lot of vulnerable people.

"What I object to most is that this is not an honest debate. The government is telling people the system is expensive but it is impossible to compare it with other European systems, where much more of the work done by solicitors is taken on by the judiciary."

The government says the changed system would drive up standards through encouraging firms to compete.

Barrister Phil Astbury said he did not accept that argument, and that the proposals could have a "catastrophic" effect on the criminal bar.

He said: "It is fantastic to see so many people here today."If we lose crucial expertise that barristers have, Merseyside will suffer.

"It will result not only in innocent people being convicted and denied justice, but guilty people walking free because cases are not heard properly."

Laura Fastest Woman in Team Challenege

Laura TippingThe 5K Team Challenge took place on Sunday 4th September, with Business and Charity Teams battling for supremacy in the shadow of the famous Liver Building. More than 1000 runners took part with over 100 teams from the Legal Community. The 5k Team Challenge requires teams of four competing with the aggregate timing deciding the winning team. Individual prizes are also awarded to the fastest Male and Female from the Legal Community, together with a prize for most money raised by a team.

Cobleys entered 6 runners with the fastest 4 times going forward to the Team Result. All runners were awarded medals at the finish line by representatives from the two Liverpool Law Society nominated charities: Paula Widdison represented the Liverpool Mombasa Access to Justice Charity and Peter Davies OBE was there on behalf of Rotary's Life Education (Wirral) charity.  
The Cobley's team including Partners Eric Williams and Jonathan McIlveen and the Cobleys Team finished a very respectable 2nd team from the Legal Community in a time of 1 hour 29 minutes and 22 seconds, missing out on 1st place by a mere 34 seconds!!
Our Laura Tipping also won the individual award for Fastest Female from the Legal Profession in a time of 22 minutes 50 seconds. She attended the Law Society AGM on 29th November 2011 where she was presented with a commemorative plaque by Law Society President  Norman Jones.
The Team hope to continue their running success in the forthcoming Liverpool Half Marathon in March 2012.

‘I never gave up hope’ – taxi driver David Butler acquitted of Anne Marie Foy murder speaks out

A TAXI driver cleared of the 2005 murder of a Liverpool gran today told how he hopes her family will one day see justice.

David Butler spent an “horrendous” seven months in prison after being charged with killing sex worker Anne Marie Foy before he was acquitted by a jury last week.

Still getting used to being a free man again the frail and terminally-ill 65-year-old Wavertree dad-of-three told the ECHO he rarely gave up hope he would be found innocent but his time in HMP Walton saw him have “dark, dark days” where he contemplated giving it all up.

Mr Butler, who used to combine his time driving Hackney cabs with training young football teams at Mossley Hill Athletics Club, was arrested in November 2010 by the cold case team which re-opened the September 2005 murder of Ms Foy.

Mr Butler was linked to the crime, which saw the 46-year-old mum-of-four – originally from Dovecot but who also lived in Tuebrook and Kensington – battered to death in bushes in the city’s red light district, through a scientific breakthrough in DNA.

 A partial profile found on Ms Foy’s clothing and under her finger nails was “more than a thousand billion times” more likely to be Mr Butler’s than anyone else’s, the prosecution told the Liverpool Crown Court trial last month.

But experts for the defence queried the validity of the findings and attacked the processes used to get them.

The jury deliberated for nearly eleven hours before clearing Mr Butler who suffers from debilitating COPD (a mix of chronic bronchitis and emphysema).

Today he told the ECHO: “Something comes along sometimes which is life-changing but you never see it coming so you are never prepared for it.

“It is difficult to put into words how I feel now.

“The major worry for me was how this would impact on my family, not on me. They are my life. I was never really worried about myself.

“We have to remember there were victims here and we all saw Anne Marie’s family and their reaction afterwards [some quickly left the courtroom in tears] and I didn’t expect anything else.

“No-one should lose their mother in those circumstances and I wish them every success in getting justice. This was another false dawn for them which must have been hard but it has to be the right man and it wasn’t here.”

Mr Butler was charged and, despite his failing health, remanded into custody last June.

He was kept on the “vulnerable prisoner” wing and attacked by another inmate in the mistaken belief he was a sex offender.

Read more: ‘I never gave up hope’ – taxi driver David Butler acquitted of Anne Marie Foy murder speaks out

Half Marathon and Sky Dive for Clatterbridge

The leap in to Spring has seen a  flurry of high adrenaline sports being completed by some of the Cobley’s teams.
The events kicked off with the Liverpool Half-Marathon on Sunday 28th March 2012 which saw our Laura Tipping and Jonathan Mc Ilveen  complete their first half marathon. After the success of the Team Challenge 5k in October, the pair decided to take on the challenge of the 21 kilometre (13.1 mile) course.
The day itself was glorious and saw in excess of 6,300 runners from as far away as Mexico, Brazil and Australia line up at the Queens Dock by the Echo arena. Olympic silver medallist Kriss Akabusi was at the start to give runners some encouragement and to officially start the race.
The 13-mile course took runners through the fringes of the city centre onto Upper Parliament Street, Princes Park and Sefton Park, Otterspool promenade and back to Queens Dock by the ECHO arena. Both runners finished the race with respectable times of 1:56 (Laura) and 1:34 (Jonathan).
Both runners thoroughly enjoyed the experience and despite some aches and pains the following week, they are already planning the next race!!
Without much time to stop for breath, however, it was on to the next activity – a Sky Dive from 14,000ft!!
The event was scheduled for Sunday 25th March 2012 and saw our Laura Tipping and Laura Graham travelling to the airfield in Lancaster for the 8:00am start! Despite not jumping until 15:00, both Laura’s were surprisingly calm and enjoyed the sunshine whilst they waited. They both completed the jump without injury and described the experience as “incredible” and “amazing”.
The Dive was initially a “one off” event, however, both Lauras enjoyed the experience so much that they are already busy recruiting other members of staff to repeat the experience.
Laura and Laura were raising money for Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology which provides treatment and care for more than 2.3 million people with Cancer across Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales, the Isle of Man and parts of Lancashire. So far they have managed to raise over £1,000 via their JustGiving page –

Cobleys Solicitors Ltd at the Birmingham Boishakhi Mela 2012

Cobleys LLP in BirminghamOn 27th May 2012, Stephen Erickson, Keith McLaughlin and Jamal Hussain from Cobleys Solicitors Ltd all went to the first ever Boishakhi Mela in Birmingham.

The Boishakhi Mela is a special and distinctive festival, which has been created by the ever growing British Bangladeshi Community, to celebrate the Bangla New Year.  The event was the first of its kind in Birmingham and Cobleys Solicitors Ltd were proud to be one of the sponsors of this event.

The Boishakhi Mela hosted many international musicians, local artists and dance groups. The Mela took place in Handsworth Park. There were about 75 stalls all with a mix of food, products and services and retail sales.

One of these stalls was a Cobleys Solicitors Ltd stall; we provided the public with some advice and passed on information about the range of services which the firm has to offer, along with some free Cobleys Pens, which seemed to be a hit!

Stephen, Keith and Jamal all thoroughly enjoyed the event and loved interacting with the various people who visited the stall.

Stephen “The event was a huge success. It was marvellous to meet so many people who all were obviously enjoying the Mela in the sunshine. The event was organised superbly. We at Cobleys were grateful to be invited to take part by having a stall. We had many visitors throughout the day to the stall. The pens we were giving away were certainly a hit!“

Keith “it was the first time that I had attended a cultural event of this size, the music, food and atmosphere was fantastic helped along by the glorious weather. All in all a fabulous day.                                 “

Jamal “the weather was absolutely amazing, the event was a great success and we are proud to have sponsored this event, up to 35 thousand people came to this event and I can say that we all had an amazing time, it’s great to interact with everyone and just have a great time at this Mela.”

We would like to thank Mr Mukit Miah and Mr Masrur Ahmed for inviting Cobleys to be apart of The Birmingham Boishakhi Mela 2012.
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