Monday Message – 03.04.23
Easter is called Pascha in Latin and Greek. The word originally denoted the Jewish Passover festival commemorating the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt. At the Seder, each food is eaten in order, in symbolism of the steps from slavery to freedom.
It also is the month of Ramadan, which is observed by many of our members, opening invitations to colleagues to iftar.
Religion and history entwine to give us space to reflect on how the past informs the present.
All Freedoms are natural and constitutional rights, later known as human rights, with natural justice – or fair trial rights- threading through those rights and providing remedies.
Criminal barristers heavily shoulder the responsibility of providing access to justice and a fair and equal justice between prosecution and defence. This demands people resources and funding of those people.
We are at the last part of the deal negotiated with the government in September 2022 and accepted in a ballot by our barristers on October 10th 2022
There is a breach of the last part deal, although the value is maintained and impact assessment on increase to AGFS legal aid is currently calculated as 17%.
The breach is not being ignored.
It is a clear breach and strikes at the trust and the relationship with the Ministry of Justice to date. The CBA is keeping the spotlight on it.
The government, repeatedly, has been requested to remove the blinkers, survey the legal aid desert, and water the plants that are growing; spiky though they may sometimes appear. Acceptance of the breach itself always is a start.
“Trials regularly are adjourned as there are not enough barristers left at the Criminal Bar.
It is hoped that prosecution barristers now will return due to the latest increase of fees.
The implementation of the deal should assist with recruitment and retention of defence barristers. The non-implementation will have the opposite effect. Any movement away from it will push a fresh exodus from the criminal bar. It is a devastating waste of public money for trials not to go ahead due to lack of barrister. It is devastating to complainants, victims, witnesses, and defendants.“
In basic summary, it is pointless investing billions into victim support when cases freeze in real time in the courts due to lack of barristers.
All criminal justice policies drop onto stony ground and turn to dust without barristers to implement them in the criminal courts.
Responsibility of the Lord Chancellor
However, the responsibility and power to fully implement this last part of the deal rests with the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, Dominic Raab MP.
He has expressed his support of the independent Criminal Bar.
He has stated that he will honour the deal.
Through his office, he can realise the power of discharging words in acts.
The part implementation of the last part of the deal is contained within the Statutory Instrument laid on 27 March 2023. It is an automatic payment and does not require justification to the LAA.
We are calling an Executive meeting tomorrow evening to discuss this breach further. Work also continues in political engagement and with the Ministry of Justice.
We hear your voices and there will be a further national zoom meeting in the near future.
Prosecution Fees Increase
The work continues with a CPS timeline for implementation being from 2nd May 2023 which is eight weeks from agreement with the CBA on new fee arrangements. The CBA had been pushing for earlier implementation. However, software changes will be tested by the CPS from mid-April and, I am informed an announcement of the detail of the fee increases will be made this week.
The new schemes will apply to hearings in new and existing cases on or after the implementation date.
Many have communicated in relation to work spent on sentencing notes which is unpaid.
The CPS has agreed to look into the issues raised in relation to sentencing notes after the implementation of the new scheme.
The reasoning and timeline from the CPS is as follows:
“Analysis of the issue is needed which will include where there are regional differences in practice. Some areas produce sentencing notes as routine, others do not. The results will be available for full assessment/discussion between the CPS and CBA/Bar Council in June.”
We continue to meet with the Resident Judges and invite their communication.
Last week I met with HHJ Michael Simon (together with Leon Kazakos KC, Leader of the South Eastern Circuit), Resident Judge at Luton Crown Court. We have instigated liaison meetings between clerks and list officer with a member of the Bar Mess for Luton in attendance. With thanks to Fiona McAddy for her assistance.
HHJ Simon stresses that whilst there are no magic wands (which I still refuse to believe – and I won’t destroy your childhood), communication channels are hugely important.
He welcomes feedback and so do continue to contact us at court problems email. With thanks to HHJ Simon for his time and constructive engagement.
Thanks also to HHJ Heather Norton KC, Resident Judge at Reading Crown Court, who was one of the first Judges to invite me to meet to discuss the interface of challenges between judiciary and Criminal Bar.
One week warned lists with a maximum number of five trials listed might minimise ineffective trials and/or allow barristers the opportunity to take further work if their trial is ineffective.
Returning to the CPS controlling all briefing of its cases so that one barrister works on a list in one court, rather than placing allocation of case responsibility on chambers, also is being explored.
As always, let us know your views.
Last week, I also had a meeting with the Senior Presiding Judge, together with Tana Adkin KC. We continue to alert him to working conditions and stress endured by barristers.
In summary, he states that CBA members who wish to raise concerns about how they have been treated by a judge have formal routes if the issue is serious and they wish to use those processes. He further considers that barristers might also prefer an informal approach where they might be supported by a senior member of the CBA, Circuit Leader, Head of Chambers, or another senior member of the Bar.
I and the CBA are here to support our members if there are specific issues with the judiciary.
I continue to strengthen ties with the Circuit Leaders so that we don’t duplicate and, above all, utilise the best channels for the barrister.
Magistrates Courts Fees
One problem with the CBA action was its lack of focus on the work of junior barristers in the Magistrates’ Courts. I sought to address this from the start of my term as Chair and I am delighted that the CBA’s Young Bar Committee, supported by our executive, has commenced work on fees paid to barristers in the magistrates’ courts. This will be joint working with the Bar Council and Solicitors.
From the YBC Chair, Zayd Ahmed:
“Those of us who practice in the magistrates’ and youth courts are aware of how dire the situation is when it comes to fees.
One of our priorities this year is to seek an increase into legal aid magistrates’ court cases, something which hasn’t happened for a very long time.
In order for us to be able to properly put forward a case, we need data to show there is a need.
I, therefore, ask that you please complete the survey so that we can make our case.
If you are one of our young barristers (under seven years’ call), please complete the questionnaire.
Wood Green Crown Court Open Day
It is on 6th April 2023.
We still are open for volunteers from our members – or call in if you are local.
It is a wonderful and rewarding opportunity to inspire future generations in criminal law.
I will see you there!
Impact of Remote Hearings
It provides support for the voices of practitioners who warned that placing a complainant in a room and recording cross-examination (section 28 YJCE 1999) and then pressing “play” in court might not serve victims of sexual offences in the way advocated by campaigners.
The government needs to return to giving more weight to barristers who have expertise in the courts and in prosecuting and defending in sexual offences cases than to lobbying groups.
To so neglect barristers is an intellectual and political failure and results in an incoherent criminal justice system.
And so, to CLAAB which should be a viable coherent answer to the Ministry of Justice’s own report.
The CBA continues to pressure the government to appoint a Chair and the executive has proposed a list of names who would be excellent appointments.
The next meeting of CLAAB is the 25th of April 2023.
Thanks to the CBA’s officers, Vice-Chair Tana Adkin KC, Secretary Mark Watson, Assistant Secretary James Oliveira-Agnew, and Treasurer James Gray.
I’m now six months into my term as Chair and this is my first thanks to them all in a MM. Thank you, team!
Thanks as always to CBA Administrator, Aaron Dolan, and CBA Director of Communications James Rossiter; our engine room.
Thanks to the executive. They are all responding to attend the meeting tomorrow; undoubtedly cancelling other commitments to make the time for the Criminal Bar.
Thank you above all to our membership. You are why we work tirelessly.
With two large funding injections into legal aid defence and prosecution, implemented in just over six months, members should feel proud of what they have achieved.
Last week I attended the Memorial Service and Reception for the former Sub-Treasurer of Inner Temple, Patrick Maddams.
He was a great friend of the Criminal Bar and support to aspiring barristers.
I last saw him at Cumberland Lodge in 2022, when, even in retirement, he attended to support the moot where I and a student from Big Voice London were responding to an appeal from Billy Goats Gruff, ably represented by Simon Myerson KC with his student junior.
I still have the Troll toy Patrick presented me in commiseration at my losing.
Another huge friend of the Criminal Bar was Alex Cameron KC.
He was one of the brilliant silks who walked among us.
He never lost his core values which he put into his pro bono work, including for the Criminal Bar Association.
With condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.
With a nod to T.S. Elliot’s Ash Wednesday, the Lord Chancellor simply needs not to turn from the Criminal Bar, and to convert his words into deeds.
Have a good break all.View more news