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CBA Monday Message – 26.06.17

Chair’s Update: 
Francis FitzGibbon QC

SEC/CBA Summer Ball:
This was a great evening. All tickets sold. Beautiful venue at the Saddlers’ Hall. Copious food and drink, music and dancing. A thoughtful and beautifully delivered speech by Helena Duong (the Circuit Junior) in praise of Aaron Dolan, who keeps both the CBA and the SEC in order and deployed his array of skills to make the Ball the success that it was. Huge thanks to him, as always. 
Discussions have continued between the Bar’s representatives and MOJ, with some positive developments. The next Leaders’ Group meeting is on 28th June. If there’s more to announce, you’ll read about it here. 
Flexible Operating Hours:
We maintain our principled and practical objections to this scheme. It commands no support among advocates. It is perverse to cram more sittings into the Court day while several Court centres have unused Courtrooms, for lack of Judges and Recorders. Another oddity is the inconsistency in listing between courts that are in fairly close proximity: in some you wait months for a listing, while others have greater flexibility.
As and when the pilot scheme goes ahead, it will be critical for advocates to keep a record of what happens so that we have evidence of its impact – for good or ill. The CBA will be issuing a questionnaire in the very near future.

The Bar Council’s sitting hours Protocol is not intended as a riposte to the FOH pilot, nor does it seek to usurp the role of the judiciary in determining when the Court day should start and finish. It just invites Courts to adopt a stable and reasonable timetable, for the benefit of all those who come to Court, either to work there or under compulsion. The ambition is that this objective will be seen as sensible and will gain the support of those who control our going out and coming in.

The recent heat-wave sharply exposed the poor conditions in which our Courts operate. Staff in the Royal Courts of Justice were, apparently, not permitted to open the windows; the contractor needed a month’s notice. Please tell me this is an urban myth. The air-conditioning at Blackfriars Crown Court – on the blink for ages – failed. Expensive stand-alone units had to be brought it. Many older Courts have no air-conditioning at all. Some adjourned, others soldiered on in 30°+ of heat. People fell asleep, felt ill, and could not concentrate. Heat-waves may be rare, but they show up the decayed infrastructure – along with non-functioning toilets and lifts, leaks, and poor facilities in general for all Court users. Outsourcing of maintenance tasks has not been a roaring success.

In better news, I have been informed by HMCTS that a programme of repair and refurbishment is due to begin later this year at Inner London, Southwark, Leeds, and Maidstone Crown Courts, and Aylesbury will be moving to the Magistrates Court building, as the Court there is being closed. Improvements will be welcomed and will bring much-needed relief.
LAA Payments for Magistrates Court work:
We support a proposal by the Young Bar Committee for the Legal Aid Agency to make payments for Magistrates Court work directly to counsel. It will speed up payments. It should make the exploitation of pupils and juniors more difficult, when they are sent to Court for free or for less than the full fee, as bait to get bigger work in for more senior people. Yes, this still goes on. If it has happened to you, or you know about it happening to other people, please let me know. Confidentiality assured. It is wrong and must stop.
Defence Practitioner Survey:
The Common Platform designers would like defence practitioners to complete this 2 minute survey.  The  results will be used to determine  whether the Common Platform should provide defence practitioners with the ability to redact materials – a facility at present only available to the prosecution.  The survey will be open until 7th July 2017.

Working Lives Survey:
The Bar Council’s Working Lives Survey launches this evening. Designed to gather the views of barristers about their experience of life at the Bar, the confidential survey is going to the entire profession and is being run in partnership with various Circuits and SBAs, including the CBA. The results of the survey will help the Bar Council align its work with the profession’s main interests and concerns. The CBA will be able to do likewise since we will have access to anonymised data in relation to the criminal Bar. The survey should take about 20 minutes to complete so please do find the time to take part. The higher the response rate the more useful the data will be for all involved.

Vice-Chair Election:
We have two first-rate candidates, Chris Henley QC and Simon Spence QC.
Voting by postal ballot and online opens today at 5pm today for two weeks until 7th July. Please encourage people to vote.

The funeral of Andrew Keogh, barrister of No 5 Chambers and long-standing member of the CBA, who died on 17th June, will take place on Tuesday 27th June at 2.30 pm in Croydon Minster, Church Street, Croydon, CR0 1RN. Andrew’s sons suggest donations to Médecins Sans Frontières, rather than flowers.

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