“Monday Message” – 03.05.23
Welcome to the Wednesday “Monday Message”.
Well, it was May Day!
May Day festivities can be traced back to the Floralia in Ancient Rome where the festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers and Spring, took place between 28th April and 3rd May.
In Wales, the first of May is Calan Mai or Calan Haf.
The first of May also was designated International Workers’ Day in 1889, after the brutal end to the meeting of workers on May 4th, 1886, in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. Seven police officers and at least four workers were tragically killed.
Internationally, the crushing of union movements then ensued.
In Chicago, there was a roundup of perceived anarchists who were put on trial; an event which was subsequently widely condemned.
The trial resulted in convictions and death sentences.
The marchers had been agitating for a shorter working day.
Their slogan had been “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will.”
Welfare rights, of course, derive from their contribution to human dignity.
As barristers we have a further layer of dignity sewn within our profession.
It can be seen in our skills representing our clients, although the pressures on the courts and ourselves within those courts, can place these stitches under strain.
The third meeting of CLAAB was on 25th April 2023. I attended alongside Vice-Chair, Tana Adkin KC.
I emphasised that the delay in appointment of a Chair was not one that could be justified.
The Ministry of Justice assured me that an independent Chair will be in place by July.
The Spring review of the section 28 bolt-on fee has commenced and the CBA’s CLAAB AGFS Committee will respond next week.
I remain confident that there will be an increase to the fee agreed in the deal.
In summary, our prediction of case volumes is more accurate than the MoJ projections.
The government has committed in the deal to spending £4 million on section 28 cases over the Spending Review period (up to March 2025).
A reminder of the reaffirmation of that commitment in the letter, dated 3rd February 2023, from Minister Freer. Access the letter here.
I also was encouraged by CLAAB starting to look at diversity in the context of instructions in particular cases, as well as retention of barristers.
I pointed out that the Board itself should be a starting point for examination of diversity as currently there is a diverse cohort from the MoJ and LAA, but not from the legal profession representatives, save for the CBA.
The data of composition of criminal barristers presented by the MoJ at CLAAB relates to the 2019-2020 CLAR data and criminal barristers in the ‘Specialist Full Practice’ (SFP) group. This group only includes barristers who self-reported having earned at least 80% of their fee income from criminal cases and who also earned above a minimum income threshold, which depended on their years of practice:
“In summary, there is a higher proportion of male barristers and barristers aged 45- 64, if one was comparing on a simple basis to the general working age population. The ethnicity split is broadly representative of the general population, with around 80% of SFP barristers being white.”
This is only part of the picture, but the crisis in retention of and diversity at the Criminal Bar now needs to be seized at government level.
Long-term AGFS reform
There is focused discussion of long-term reform of AGFS with the target of a further increase in fees at the 2025 Spending Review.
This is not soon enough, relying on CLAR.
However, it will be the first time that the CBA has been alongside the MoJ in preparation for a Spending Review bid.
We remain alive to the fulfilment of the last part of the deal in the short term and I kept this in sharp focus at CLAAB.
Your voices continue to be heard and transmitted and the date of the national zoom will be announced shortly.
New Secretary of State for Justice
A meeting with the Alex Chalk KC MP is pending.
AGFS Fee Increase
A reminder that the government’s final response to CLAR was on 7th December 2022.
The estimated barristers’ additional fees income is 17% (table Y). This excludes the additional payments for section 28 cases, so a further assessment will likely be higher.
Access the Government’s Response to the Independent Review here.
The increase in CPS fees came into effect on 2nd May 2023.
A reminder of the increase is in the letter from the DPP and Interim Chief Executive, dated 14th April 2023 here.
All changes will apply to existing and new cases from 2nd May 2023 and to new or ongoing VHCC stages.
- All CPS fee rates increased by 15%, including the GFS, the VHCC and magistrates’ court and Youth court arrangements.
- an increase to VHCC Led Junior rates to pay the equivalent of the revised VHCC Junior Alone rates.
- A 10% case uplift for sentence hearing where multiple cases are sentenced on the same day.
- Introduction of a new fixed fee of £670 ex. VAT for section 28 cases. This is subject to review (as is the AGFS bolt-on)
- Streamlined Forensic Reports within the GFS page count.
As various red-hot WhatsApp and twitter groups communicated, there was a mistake by the CPS on its website of tables of trial rates for silks, leading juniors, and juniors for Fee Scheme F.
Thank you to those who alerted me, particularly CBA assistant secretary, James Oliveira- Agnew. An email chain then stretched out to Tom Little KC and then to the CPS.
It even reached them before midnight.
This morning there was a prompt response from the CPS that it will be corrected, and they will write to clerks, sharing the web link and sharing copies of the PDF versions.
Their team are working hard, and mistakes happen.
And so, to……
Keep communicating your issues here
We are passing them on, suitably anonymised unless told otherwise to the highest levels of the judiciary.
Judiciary and the CBA
I am delighted that HHJ Chris Kinch KC, Resident Judge of Woolwich Crown Court, has agreed to speak to members this month. The date will be confirmed shortly.
I also am in communication with another high-level member of the judiciary about communication with members.
Hardship Fund and Thanks
Please continue to apply here.
It is likely to close over the following month, with the surplus being redirected, in accordance with the terms of the scheme, to educational and outreach activities.
The generosity of the donations from individuals, firms, and chambers to this Fund, to support our criminal barristers under 10 years’ call, was immense.
Thanks also to the Bar Council for holding the fund on trust for the CBA; with particular thanks to Adrian Vincent, Head of Policy: Legal Practice and Remuneration.
Thanks to the silks and juniors on the CBA’s hardship panel who considered the applications and to Mark Watson and Chloe Ashley.
As always, thanks for the invaluable expertise of Faisel Sadiq, whose high-level legal advice and drafting set it up.
Crown Court Improvement Group
I attended the meeting last week, chaired by the Senior Presiding Judge, Lord Justice Edis and was able to feed in work by the CBA and raise issues of excessive over-listing.
All Chairs of the reinvigorated and newly established sub-committees met last week.
The energy and dedication by the Chairs was inspiring.
Thanks to Peter Carter KC (International), Melanie Simpson KC and Eleanor Mawrey (Equality and Diversity), Grace Ong (Social Mobility), Charlotte Newell KC and Paul Jarvis (Education), Mary Prior KC and John Riley (Rasso), Elizabeth Marsh KC (Retention), Jonathan Higgs KC and Tana Adkin KC (Well-being) and Caroline Haughey KC (Constitutional reform).
As a reminder, the Equality and Diversity sub-committee also is open for further members.
We met last week and continue to exchange information and ensure that we are alongside each other where required.
Thank you to all Circuit Leaders.
Court of Appeal
A gentle judicial reminder has reached me to communicate to members that there must be appropriate and timely applications to the Court of Appeal for appearance via CVP or for an observer to attend via CVP.
Bear in mind that the application requires a judicial decision, not merely an administrative one.
Informally, from the Court of Appeal:
“Counsel should therefore explain the reasons for the application in sufficient detail to enable the court to decide whether it is in the interests of justice to direct remote participation.
Other parties to the proceedings must be given the opportunity to make representations about the application.
The most convenient way of satisfying that requirement is for counsel to contact their opponent(s), invite any representations, and then communicate the result of that enquiry to the court when making the application.
Where no other party will be represented (eg on a renewed application for leave to appeal, or an appeal against sentence in which the respondent will not be represented) it will generally be sufficient for counsel to state that fact when making the application.”
Behind every gentle judicial communication is a disappearing heap of straws and so let’s try and be better organised.
At the very least, it will reduce stress.
“Spring” conference in Manchester
There still are tickets available for both the dinner and conference, which is astonishing; although Parklife also hasn’t yet sold out.
Don’t go to Parklife, come to the CBA conference: book tickets here.
Heilbron Lecture 24th May 2023
I was privileged to give the inaugural lecture.
It has got much better since then, and I recommend attending to hear Professor Ruth Chang (over 9 million views on her Ted talk).
The theme is “Value”.
The wonderful Dana Denis-Smith (Founder First/Next 100 Years) has created a 50% discount Code for CBA members.
Please contact Aaron if you wish to apply with the discount or access the discount here.
- What: Prof. Ruth Chang ‘Value conflicts in life and law’
- Where: Pewterers’ Hall, Oat Lane, London EC2V 7DE
- When: Wednesday 24th May 2023, 18:00 – 20:30
In this, our time in history, we are striving to maintain our standards as the cases remain piled high with the bodies of people crushed between them.
For each case, well-prepared, there is another stitch put back into just justice.
Look after yourselves and each other and keep communicating.View more news