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CBA Chairman’s Message – 25.11.14

CBA Chairman’s Message:
Tony Cross QC 

Tuesday 25 November 2014


E: [email protected]
T: 07860 692693 

Organisation-Birmingham Week 2

The CBA fact finding tour continues and this week we visit  Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol where we will meet CBA representatives- they,  elected by ballot, nominated, or press ganged into service will all be welcomed.  These men and women give up of their time and devote huge amounts of energy to the Bar. As we move about the country I become ever more optimistic that if in my term of office I do no more than leave to Mark Fenhalls an organisation that is ready to meet in a democratic way the challenges that undoubtedly lie ahead then my year will not have been wasted.

What a contrast I find from meeting our delegates and their determination to ‘do’ something to  those who simply sit on the sidelines and snipe away without taking responsibility for their actions, oft times putting out inaccurate versions of the facts. As you know from last week’s MM we have taken the decision to extend the deadline for nominations to the Executive to allow all who would wish to make a contribution to come forward.  All I ask is that rather than spending all the time tweeting or blogging consider coming forward and stand for election. You will be more than welcome.

[email protected]

We are now in week 2 of collecting information about the workings of the fee system. I want to make the CBA’s position perfectly plain. I have asked for hard evidence of instances where injustices have occurred in the payment of fees. The accounts given to us from some quarters seem to indicate that the returning of forms to Chambers as a result of minor errors in filling out the form or failing to provide information which could easily be checked by the LAA was ‘endemic.’  On the other hand the LAA believe that there is no justification for such a claim. Hence the email address and need for evidence. This is your opportunity to come forward with examples of these failings. I have no doubt that if there are justifiable cases supported by evidence that I will be able to provide a real solution to these issues. I ask each of you to liaise with your fee clerks and report back as soon as possible.  I also have the agreement of Hugh Barrett, Director, Legal Aid Commissioning and Strategy at the LAA for a meeting with CBA Circuit representatives at the LAA offices in Nottingham. This will be a face to face meeting where a Circuit representative will have the opportunity of dealing with matters on your behalf.

Life at the Junior Bar and Aylesbury Crown Court

A few weeks ago I received a report from a young member of the bar who described a terrible tale of rather banal occurrence. This young barrister had picked up a late return for sentence, had prepared the case the night before, spending two hours so doing, had then gone to Court and then discovered that the Judge was unwell. This Barrister though was so worried about making ends meet that he/she had walked a considerable distance so as to save money in order to make ends meet. The case was taken out of the list and then relisted on a date when Counsel could not attend. These events are typical of the type which are dispiriting for the junior bar who simply can’t afford these wasted hearings.

That is why there was so much discussion on social networking about the scheme currently in place at Aylesbury Crown Court where his His Honour Judge Sheridan is the Resident Judge.   I received complaints that Barristers were being required to turn up at Court to explain why a case had cracked at trial. In fact the speculation in this instance was a little misplaced.  His Honour Judge Sheridan does not require Barristers to attend at all. He requires a representative of the solicitors who hold the Litigators Fee to attend to help identify the reasons for the ineffective trial. Secondlythere is no question of requiring anyone to answer a question that might breach privilege. The purpose of the initiative is to better understand the reasons cases go short and to reduce wastage of resources in the Crown Court. 

All this has provided further food for thought and reflects much of what we had learned in the North. Victims, witnesses, defendants, solicitors and Counsel are all the subject of unconscionable delays resulting which for Counsel means ever-increasing reductions in their take home pay.


Last week Mark and I met Clare Toogood (in effect the PDS’ Practice Manager) and David Aubrey QC for a useful and wide ranging discussion about the workings of the PDS. They explained to us that the upper limit for the PDS advocacy unit was 25, as set back in April. It currently consists of 7 QCs and 17 juniors although the final position is currently on offer. Following constructive discussions with the Bar, Circuit Leaders and CBA in the summer, the Secretary of State had been clear that the size of the advocacy unit was frozen. Any further recruitment has been for the PDS Solicitors’ team and that was to replace existing staff.

We also informed them of the concerns that many of you have had that PDS lawyers are sitting idle whilst receiving their civil service salary. Clare Toogood confirmed that apart from undertaking normal criminal defence work a number of PDS Advocates were engaged in seconded or advisory work for other Government departments. For example, one Silk, was currently engaged on FCO work overseas.

We explained to them the sort of rumours that were circulating about referral fees. They were categorical that there would never be any question of the PDS paying referral fees. Whatever the respective codes of conduct said, they would be further bound by the civil service code which requires Civil Servants to act with honesty and integrity. There were no financial incentives to require PDS Solicitors to use PDS Advocates. David Aubrey QC confirmed that the PDS Advocacy Unit would utterly reject any suggestion that any of its advocates would pay referral fees for work done and the Unit was committed to upholding the highest standards.

Best wishes,


PS Has anyone noticed that that is two wins on the bounce! Next up Villa.

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