Skip to main content

CBA Monday Message 13.11.17

Chair’s Update:
Angela Rafferty QC

We still await the outcome of the AGFS consultation.

Our investigation into the real working lives of our members continues. The ultimate aim is to ensure fair working practices enabling us to recruit and retain women and those from all backgrounds.

The picture is not encouraging. We are hearing from counsel that cases (some involving young and vulnerable witnesses) have been listed and stood out multiple times for trial. Lack of juries/judges/courts is given as the reason for many of these debacles. Ill considered and illogical lists, which ignore the needs of witnesses, defendants, counsel and all other court users, are prevalent.

List offices know when prisoners are being brought from distant remand centres –  the banded Designated Ready At Court Time (‘DRACT’) hours are available; see page 57, paragraph 208, footnote 105 of the Leveson report.

Cases are still listed at 10am when it is known that remanded defendants will not be there. This needlessly undermines the relationship of goodwill between advocates and the courts. Barristers experience this practice as a disregard for their time. It doesn’t require much effort to stagger case lists to improve efficiency.

In another development the indignity of bad listing was compounded when one of our members had a child’s toy car and marker pens confiscated by security staff at one court centre. When asked for an explanation she was told that she might use the pens for graffiti and the car as a weapon. An apology has been issued. This member felt able to make her first complaint ever and raise the issue with her representatives who could act on her behalf.  How are members of the public and witnesses treated, who may never complain? It is a real sign of how low things have got when professional court users are subjected to this insulting and contemptuous behaviour.

When these issues arise it seems Judges vary from helpful and apologetic to dismissive and resigned. We ask for more help and more consideration from the judiciary on this.  It has been reported this week that Lord Neuberger suggested that counsel tell Judges when a 9.30 listing isn’t convenient because of the “school run”. Here is a link to the report and the interesting comments beneath. We look forward to hearing how His Lordship’s advice goes down with the Circuit bench….

The effect on all barristers of wasteful court listing is profound, both financially and in planning our working lives.  For a truly diverse profession there is a minimum requirement that we will be paid for the work we do and know when and where we are to do it. There cannot be another profession that endures as much wasted preparation as ours due to factors entirely outside our own control.

We now have a spreadsheet of all listing incidents reported to us. We will be passing this to HMCTS who we are in regular contact with. Keep the information coming in.   Once we have collected enough data we will be in a position to consult with our Executive committee, and you, about what to do without fear of receiving the ‘isolated incident’response.  We are particularly interested in examples of how our goodwill very often keeps the system going across all areas – not just listing. Without it lists and trials might grind to a halt.

We attach links to the listing protocols members can cite when dealing with children and vulnerable witness and defendant cases.

The listing protocol is here. F3 deals with cases that should be fixed.

Here is the listing protocol for witnesses under 10 years old.

The advocates gateway case management toolkit deals with listing for vulnerable witnesses at paragraphs 4.3 and 4.4 here.

We are also receiving information about the way that some of our junior members are treated in court.

In next week’s message our assistant secretary Emma Fenn will give us the views of the Junior Criminal Bar – building a practice, staying afloat and getting ahead. On this note “Getting Ahead at the Criminal Bar” is the CBA Young Bar Conference title. It costs £20 a ticket, is on Saturday morning on 9th December and finishing at 1pm. It will involve a networking event nearby – all included in this price.

On 16th November the CBA in conjunction with Urban Lawyers will hold a mock trial at the Old Bailey.

On 14th November at the Old Bailey, Dr. Shona Minson will deliver a lecture entitled “Sentencing of primary carers within the Criminal Justice system”.  The lecture will start promptly at 17.30.

Section 162 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 came into force today. This inserts section 86A into the Courts Act 2003.  This has required an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Rules. Defendants must now provide their nationality on request if required to do so at any stage of proceedings. The announcement is here with Civil liberty groups having this to say on the matter.

Finally a dinner was held for Francis Fitzgibbon Q.C at the Bleeding Heart Restaurant in Ely Place in London on Friday night. This was a lovely occasion to say thank you to last year’s Chair.

View more news