Whatever criticism has been laid at the door of the Ministry of Justice in the last five years there is one area in which its efforts have generally received plaudits and that is its ability to make the best of bad news and to trumpet to the heavens whenever smoke of the good news ship appeared on the horizon. The result has been that its press and media office with sixty nine employees able to conjure such magic with words could form a subplot for the next series of "In the Thick of It". The Magistrates Association in contrast has by and large relied upon enthusiastic amateurism to propagate its views to its wider audience which usually was no larger than those it considered able to assist its purpose. The great British public was not considered worth engaging in its attempts to influence opinion. Then everything changed a few years ago. It was pushed, persuaded and cajoled to widen its communication structure the result being that a professional PR person was brought in to widen its voice. One would have thought that an organisation wishing to spread its gospel to a wider audience than the parliamentarians it has on its e mail list would do all it could in opposing the most iniquitous legislation of recent years; the Criminal Courts Charge. Chris Grayling as Lord Chancellor in the Coalition steam rollered this most un English piece of legislation by smoke, mirrors, political brutality and a supine senior judiciary through Parliament to become effective four months ago.
In 2014 Jason Hughes was appointed Head of Communications at the Magistrates Association and as such is presumably being paid a decent salary for his expertise. His employers have decided to get into the ring with the current Secretary of State in the hope that whilst not hoping for a knock out might gain a few points to win a round or two with the backing of lawyers equally antagonistic to said Charge as well as their own contest against cuts in legal aid. So one would have thought that offering the appropriate movers and shakers it has in its sights to disseminate its opposition a healthy breakfast meeting with such people would be a useful way to persuade some to get onside. But Mr Hughes and his employer have overlooked or ignored one small point:- asking attendees of such meetings to pay for their own coffee and croissants is akin to driving with the hand break on......you don`t get very far. The meeting on 29th September will cost those interested £50. It will be interesting to read subsequent reports.