CBA Statement: Extended Operating Hours – 28.07.21

The Government yesterday announced the introduction of ‘Temporary Operating Arrangements’ which places the power to operate extended court sitting hours in the hands of the judiciary. The Criminal Bar Association remains opposed to Extended Operating Hours (‘EOH’) in whatever form it appears.

We been consistent in our objection to EOH since HMCTS initiated it as a policy via criminal court pilot schemes in 2017 before it was subsequently abandoned in 2018 due to its discriminatory nature. We repeated our objection when HMCTS attempted to reimpose EOH across England and Wales in 2020 before abandoning it earlier this year.

EOH fails to take account of fundamental aspects of a criminal advocate’s working day. This does not begin or end in a court room and a vast amount of preparation and other essential work takes place outside court sitting hours, much of it, without remuneration. Further, a crucial feature of a strong and independent Criminal Bar is that barristers are chosen on the basis of their ability and experience rather than their geographical location. They are regularly required to attend many different courts and to travel long distances to do so.

Any scheme which increases footfall during the midst of an ongoing pandemic with rising infection rates also puts at risk all court users including criminal barristers.

The Criminal Bar Association is considering all options in terms of its opposition to this latest iteration of EOH and, in so doing, will liaise with all relevant parties.

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