CBA Monday Message – 04.09.17
As your incoming Chair I thank Francis Fitzgibbon QC for all his hard work both in public and behind the scenes. This is not an easy role and Francis has managed to steer a pragmatic and thoughtful course for us during his year. We are very grateful to him.
Michael Hill QC, a former Chairman described the CBA as an organization “‘born from frustration and anger”. We still have many reasons to be frustrated and angry. We have achieved considerable success over the years when we pull together. Remember that our voice has great weight and worth – we should use it wisely.
I will continue the tradition of the Monday message in the certain knowledge that the longer each message is the less likely you are to read all of it. Bear with me for this first effort. I will set out the issues and campaigns that have priority so you can see the route I want to take. After this I will strive to keep it short.
Advocates Graduated Fee Scheme
This perennial problem is highly likely to come to a head this Autumn when the MOJ responds to the consultation. The next leaders meeting is the 20th September so expect an update after that. What we do is essential for the proper functioning of civil society. The system is at breaking point. The overall budget for criminal advocacy is far too low and has been repeatedly cut to the bone – more so than any other profession.
I am well aware of the deep concerns about the proposed new AGFS scheme. I will be consulting Heads of Chambers. I am also going to invite discussion between the membership and those who have worked closely on the scheme’s detail. Chris Henley QC and I will meet with solicitors’ representatives to discuss our mutual concerns. I want to ensure we have open, robust and transparent negotiations and a realistic debate whilst maintaining the honour and solidarity of our profession.
We are heading into a Post Brexit world with a Criminal Justice System in crisis. The Government should think hard about what it is going to do about this in the public interest.
Flexible Operating Hours
The pilots will be launched in October. This initiative has been tried before and failed. As we keep repeating there is no good reason to try it again – it will have a disastrous effect on diversity and the working lives of all in the Criminal Justice system. We are informed and we do understand. We deal with the most difficult problems in society on a daily basis. We don’t have the benefit of billions of pounds of investment yet we are the glue that keeps the crumbling edifice of the CJS going. To remind members of the CBA guidance and questionnaire see this link. Contact our dedicated working group on this email address, especially those who are directly affected by the pilots [email protected].
Social Mobility, Equality and Diversity and career progression
I am a product of social mobility and would not be writing this to you without the benefit of grants, scholarships and the goodwill and advice of others. We have to attract and retain the best from all backgrounds by demonstrating that our work has value and purpose, even though it may not be the most lucrative. We are forming a working group to plan a nationwide programme of events and initiatives for those from diverse backgrounds. In later messages I will be asking for volunteers and for assistance from members who wish to help. We are holding our first mock trial at the Old Bailey in November in conjunction with Urban Lawyers but I do not want this to be a London centric initiative. On this can I remind everyone that the CBA bursary award scheme is now open and applications accepted from all members under 7 years’ call. Please see this link and remember the deadline is the Friday 2nd October for applications.
Career progression should be equal for all. In order to thrive in the future we have to ensure our most junior members are supported. We have a problem in retaining and progressing women at the criminal Bar and our attrition rate is pretty dismal for those with significant parental or other caring responsibilities. We will start tackling these issues by developing mentoring opportunities, organizing events and speakers, offering practical advice about career progression and the work of the CBA pupillage and early practice working group. We will have a panel discussion at the Bar Conference and further events will be announced in future Monday Messages.
I want to campaign to raise the prestige of this work and to ensure that properly trained advocates undertake it and are paid appropriately for it. The fact that the Inspector of Prisons has concluded that there is not a single inspected establishment where it is safe to hold children and young people is a national scandal and disgrace. The Youth Court deals with extremely serious cases in which vulnerable defendants and witnesses appear regularly. This requires a specialized approach.
Our executive committee member Jo Cecil has been appointed as secretary to the Standing Committee for Youth Justice. Jo has been at the forefront of this work for some years. They are having a one-day conference on the 25th September 2017. See this link.
Our CBA Youth Justice team will be coordinating our efforts with other organisations to raise the profile of and ensure proper training and standards in this critically important area of law.
The proud history we have in educating our members will continue with a planned series of conferences and lectures which will appear as usual in the side bars to these messages regularly and through the CBA twitter feed and website.
A problematic issue is the disclosure of evidence and credit for plea procedure in the Crown Court. Reports are coming in that pressure is being applied to counsel even when all that has been served is the case summary in complex cases. This is of concern and the executive committee and officers are preparing a response.
The interim results of the CLSA survey on disclosure mainly in magistrates are to be found HERE.
Wellness for Law on 5th September
Sarah Vine is the CBA’s wellbeing officer. She works closely with other organisations and the Bar Council to highlight and promote the wellbeing of our members. We do difficult, stressful and at times traumatic work. You can contact Sarah on [email protected] to ask, discuss or suggest anything about the Wellbeing Project. Any personal and/or sensitive matters raised will be dealt with in the strictest confidence.
Aaron as ever is already planning some fun for us this year and opportunities to meet socially. With the onset of digital working we are already becoming isolated from one another. Parties, dinners and get togethers are essential. We will try to offer something for everyone this year.
Judge Bevan’s valedictory
His Honour Judge John Bevan QC will retire from the Old Bailey on 7th September and his valedictory will be held in Court 1 at 10am on this day. He will be greatly missed not least for his inimitable sense of humour as for his fierce and courageous independence of mind.
This is an important election. Please consider standing. The deadline is 16.00 on Friday 22nd September. Our formal notice requesting nominations will be issued later this week.
The first meeting of the Executive Committee is the 26th September.
Please do get in touch with me or any of the other officers about any issue. We cannot function well without the input of our members.
My email is [email protected] I will get back to you as soon as I can but bear with me as I have small children and a day job.