Authorized Cheek’s Aishah Hussain chats to Chris Daw QC about life on the bar, his newly launched e book and enterprise into ‘vlawging’

Chris Daw QC

Chris Daw QC’s new e book, Justice on Trial, has acquired a largely constructive reception. He thinks that is as a result of public having an urge for food for the subject material which has acquired a whole lot of media consideration as of late.

The coronavirus disaster has magnified debate around prison reform whereas the Black Lives Matter motion has thrust questions round racial imbalance within the felony justice system into prominence.

We’ve hit a form of ‘reset’ level in society. Folks have realised that some features do want to alter and have grow to be, maybe, extra receptive to new concepts like those Daw proposes in his e book.

The COVID-19 lockdown has made us realise that we are able to do much more remotely than we’d have thought. For Daw — a severe crime silk at Millennium Chambers and member of Serjeants’ Inn Chambers and Lincoln Home Chambers — remote-working has been “liberating”. He’s not on the go as a lot, travelling to courtroom or to consumer conferences, and is ready to keep a way of self-discipline round his diary, he tells me after we communicate.

Extra broadly, expertise and extra particularly, distant monitoring, gives inventive options to enhancing the felony justice system, as Daw addresses in his e book. The concept is easy: jail is dear; and by embracing expertise, and the so-called “digital jail”, we are able to take away non-violent offenders, who let’s be trustworthy, “don’t be taught something helpful” in bodily imprisonment, and preserve monitor of them as they go about their lives. They might go to work or by means of training, attend counselling or rehabilitation, and “simply be extra productive” than they’re behind brick partitions and barbed wire.

Curiously, the place he doesn’t see tech has a lot of a spot is digital hearings for felony trials. “There are far too many low-level instances going by means of the courts that ought to be diverted away from the system and handled in different varieties,” he tells me. “Through the use of on-line courts for felony instances you’re enabling a system that’s already damaged. Why on-line? Nicely, why do it in any respect? It’s a waste of time.” This narrative continues in his e book.

Justice on Trial is a manifesto, in case you like, proposing radical reform to the felony justice system. It’s at breaking level, he argues, and to interrupt freed from the cycle of crime, perpetuated as a lot by our felony justice system as by these behind its bars, we should rip up the playbook and begin once more. Daw lobbies primarily for 3 issues: we should always shut all prisons however for just a few inmates; legalise medication (underneath authorities management); and put a cease to kids being tried within the grownup system.

Headline-grabbing, that’s for certain, and an ideology the far-right would have a subject day opposing. However make no mistake: Daw isn’t any apologist for violence and delinquent behaviour. His views don’t come up from some ‘mushy’ liberal perspective. He’s solely fascinated about onerous information and what works to scale back crime and stop recidivism. Daw’s concepts are easy; they’re steeped in historical past and intertwined with anecdotes and lived expertise from his many instances and travels.

All in all, Daw presents a compelling case for reform. His ‘blueprint’ for society will make readers query the dogma they’ve been fed for years. Jail is the “default soundbite” of politicians standing for election, for instance, whereas the ‘Warfare on Medication’ in fashionable occasions is, merely put, political point-scoring. It’s no surprise why then that the Prime Minister, House Secretary and Justice Secretary prime the listing of individuals he’d most prefer to learn his e book.

Does he suppose his concepts will ever grow to be actuality? The reply is, sadly (or whichever approach you view it), no. He doesn’t see there being motivation past the mainstream “lock ‘em up” mentality nor for radical drug reform. However he has religion it would achieve components. We’re more likely to see the scaling again of drug classification to some extent, he predicts, and perhaps even change in our method to incarceration, notably amongst younger offenders.

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Earlier than he carved out a profession in severe crime work, Daw studied and accomplished pupillage in Manchester. He began “on the backside of the felony bar”, accepting instruction on issues starting from shoplifting to intercourse work. He quickly progressed over a 20-year interval to tackle severe and organised crime instances, together with homicide, and quite a few types of monetary crime. It wasn’t till he took silk in 2013 that his apply diversified and he started to just accept instruction on “an eclectic combine” of ‘basic crime’ — instances starting from theft to rape.

Daw has represented infamous drug barons by means of to premier league footballers. He takes on fewer instances now, about 4 to 6 every year, in distinction to the 20 or so he’d have on the go as a junior, however they’re much more advanced and have a tendency to final for much longer. He tells me it took him simply over a yr to take Justice on Trial from preliminary idea to print; all whereas persevering with to just accept instruction and shoot a BBC documentary.

Although he has spent the years since he took silk doing non-public work, I used to be curious to ask whether or not he would start his profession in felony regulation now, because the system is at present, public sector cuts and all? The Bar Council, for instance, found recently that nearly 4 in ten felony barristers are uncertain if they’ll nonetheless be practising regulation by the top of subsequent yr. “I nonetheless would,” he responds resolutely, including: “Being a felony lawyer — it’s a type of issues that’s both in your blood or not.”

Daw grew to become “hooked” on the felony regulation profession path as a teen sitting in on crown courtroom instances within the public gallery. “I grew to become hooked on the entire course of,” he displays. It was by no means in regards to the cash, or lack thereof: 20-year-old Daw made simply £9,000 in his first yr of apply. “Anybody deciding on a profession in felony apply as a result of they’ll generate profits from it’s trying on the incorrect job — there’s by no means been a assure of being profitable on the bar,” he says. What is going to get college students far on this line of labor is, finally, ardour. That alone is what acquired Daw by means of what might generally stretch to 70 hours per week of labor as a junior barrister.

He expresses disappointment on the thought that kids could possibly be delay a profession in felony regulation. “We’d like brilliant new blood in felony regulation from various backgrounds,” he says. “I believe it’s an actual disgrace individuals are delay — they need to go for it and that’s actually necessary.”

To assist them on their approach, Daw has, once more, alongside his different pursuits, entered the world of ‘vlawging’. A few of the content material on his YouTube channel, which has amassed over 12,000 views, by the way in which, focuses on present affairs (there are snippets of among the tv interviews he has given) however the remaining is chock-full with software recommendations on the right way to safe pupillage. Daw tells me he even takes video requests and follows these up if he receives sufficient curiosity.

So what’s subsequent for Britain’s prime felony barrister? The epilogue to Justice on Trial touches on the darkish internet and web of crime, one thing that Daw says he’s fascinated to see play out within the years forward and the way regulation enforcement adapts to this new underworld of felony exercise. It could possibly be the main focus of a sequel, he teases, including that he doesn’t intend for this to be his final foray on this planet of writing. He concludes:

“I loved the method; and it has been rewarding to see the impression the e book has had on debate. If I can contribute to only getting individuals speaking about felony justice and potential reform in a severe approach then I take into account that to be worthwhile.”

Chris Daw QC is a severe crime silk at Millennium Chambers. His new book, Justice on Trial, is out now.