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Monday Message – 07.08.23

August the 9th is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, marking the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations which was held in Geneva in 1982.

According to the UN, there are an estimated 476 million indigenous peoples living across 90 countries. Whilst they make up less than 5 per cent of the world population, they comprise 15 per cent of the poorest.

Indigenous peoples are nearly three times as likely to be living in extreme poverty compared to their non-indigenous counterparts.

They speak the majority of the world’s 7,000 languages and are the embodiment of 5,000 different cultures.

History’s gaze can be focused, if we wish to look, on the brutal violations of the rights of indigenous peoples, with blows against their very existence.

There are international mechanisms in place to protect their distinct cultures and young indigenous peoples increasingly have a voice, but we need to listen as well as hear.

Pause on the 9th of August and reflect on the indigenous young people acting as agents of change on the frontline of global warming, peacebuilding, and impunity.

As criminal law barristers, sustaining our own profession and a functioning criminal justice system can exhaust us out of thinking how our skills also can support others who, literally, have been fighting fires.

National Zoom

Last week was the fourth and final national zoom of my time as Chair. Thank you to those who attended and for your input as well as messages as support.

Certain courts were identified which publish late final lists. I understand that this can be because of the workings (or not) of Common Platform. However, it doesn’t explain the disparity between different courts.

Other news included that even the coffee vending machine had been removed from Manchester Crown Court (Crown Square), after a month, with the reason thought to be that it wasn’t profitable rather than a consideration of accessibility to court users.

Working conditions of courts, including provision of facilities such as canteens and vending machines, repeatedly has been raised with the HMCTS. The response has been to point to the difficulty to attract caterers.

The response from the zoom is that the canteens will fill up if the quality of the food is good and served quickly, even if there are alternatives nearby. They were profitable pre-pandemic.

There was a thumbs up for Lewes Crown Court being helpful with listing and CVP but with the issue of sitting across four sites which are 40 miles apart.

A repeated complaint is that conference rooms are locked. Whilst I communicate with courts and Resident Judges on specific issues, it might be that the courts consider posting notices setting out where to go if there are locked rooms. Often keys are available at security, but security are not authorised to provide them. There must be an easy way to bridge the communication gap.

Burn-out of junior barristers was raised, with it being communicated that the treadmill of preparing for one case -which then is taken out of the list- and then dropped into another case and then another means that barristers are “at their wits’ end”.

There was agreement that there are not enough barristers to act in sexual offences cases.

I reiterated to the membership that the CBA is awaiting a response to the Spring review of section 28 fees.

As yet, despite a month having passed since our meeting with the Lord Chancellor there has been no response.

I sent a chasing email to the letter I had sent the previous week.

Read the letter here.


The collaboration with the DPP and the CPS has been productive over my term as Vice-Chair and Chair, with members of our Executive and Officers taking part in the meetings.

In his recent blog, the DPP underlines the critical nature of attracting and retaining prosecuting barristers and commits to supporting the well-being of barristers who prosecute as well as CPS employees.

Increasingly, the trauma of our work is recognised and acted upon. No longer should we shrug our shoulders and point to what used to happen.

Learning about mental health has advanced and the CBA continues to push forward with its implementation.

Two extracts of the blog of Max Hill KC, DPP (my emphasis):

Attracting and retaining advocates to prosecute rape and other serious sexual offences is critical to the success of rape prosecution and the delivery of justice. I highlighted this three years ago as part of the launch of the CPS Rape Strategy – RASSO 2025. In this, we committed to supporting all our people involved in this work, from prosecutors to paralegal officers, specialist advocates, and administrative staff. We made all rape prosecution advocates – both in-house at the CPS and externally from the Bar – a part of our strategy, recognising the crucial role they all play in the delivery of justice, as well as representing the Crown Prosecution Service in the court room.

The skills and experience gained through this work create a specialism that should be nurtured to recognise the critical contribution of advocates, and importantly attract and retain new talent to this work. It is also highly rewarding, and the skills gained from exposure to this work create further opportunities for career progression and advancement………

The CPS therefore acknowledges the overriding objective of the CBA Wellbeing Protocol in seeking to ensure that the criminal Bar continues to offer a flexible and professional public service, whilst also creating and sustaining safe and healthy working environments.

Although hugely rewarding, by its very nature, RASSO casework can be distressing for prosecutors and their wellbeing must be properly supported. To provide further support to RASSO advocates, CPS are in the process of offering access to parts of our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for all advocates dealing with potentially distressing casework. There will be a free 24/7 helpline where you can access free and confidential advice, support and signposting on a wide range of wellbeing issues.

We of course still face significant challenges in getting cases to trial expeditiously and improving experiences for victims. This will continue to require a collective effort and innovative thinking. For example, we are watching to see whether the specialist sexual violence support pilot at three Crown Courts – Leeds, Newcastle, and Snaresbrook in London – may help increase throughput of cases. I remain optimistic that initiatives like these and all of the work I have outlined above will all come together to improve the situation.

A reminder of the CBA’s well -being protocol is here.

Well-being and the Judiciary

The final response from the SPJ, Lord Justice Andrew Edis, after our constructive meetings and correspondence is published here.

You may find helpful the guidance on sentencing notes, which he expressed at the seminar attended by the SPJ and HHJ Chris Kinch KC, and now is widely circulated to the judiciary in writing. Also, he is aware of listing issues and continues to communicate that the work is ongoing, as well as referring to the need for barrister compliance with Better Case Management.

As these challenges are addressed by Bar and judiciary and we look to the future, I reiterate my suggestion of Tortoise listing – less cases listed equates to better preparation, less stress for the barristers and so more efficient use of court time. Consistent use of CVP and amendments to guidance to include granting where the defendant is produced via PVL better utilise the inadequate number of barristers now practising in crime.

As always, let us know your thoughts.

Here is an extract from the SPJ’s letter to the CBA, but do read it in full (emphasis added):

The Statement of Expected Behaviour issued by the Lord Chief Justice and Senior President of Tribunals sets out expectations for all judicial office holders between each other, staff and all users. This includes relationships with the Bar. The statement was specifically raised again at the Resident Judges Conference in June 2023 and has been circulated to criminal judges. It is also prominently placed on the front page of the judicial intranet.

As previously mentioned, where issues arise these should, in the first instance, be flagged with the relevant Resident or Presiding Judge who can help to deal with them. These leadership judges have been encouraged to be receptive to such approaches, which may be made by a senior colleague on behalf of a barrister who does not wish to do it themselves. If any member of the Bar does not feel able to raise concerns with the local leadership judges the issue can be raised with my office at [email protected] for my attention.

At a recent open discussion with members of the CBA online, a question was raised about judges seeking sentencing notes in increasing numbers of cases from prosecuting counsel. His Honour Judge Kinch KC and I emphasised that, in cases where they are required, these should not be long or complex documents which take a long time to prepare. Nowadays, the prosecution is expected to assist the court in the application of relevant guidelines and it has always been the job of the prosecution to help the court in sentencing by ensuring that the law is properly applied. All that is required when a sentencing note is requested is advance notice, in short form, of what the prosecution intends to say about these questions. I am sure that judges will see the need to exercise some care in ensuring that unreasonable demands are not imposed on counsel in straightforward cases.

The impact of the revised BCM Handbook and listing advice to judges is being closely monitored for the remainder of this year and it is a priority of mine to ensure these principles are being adhered to. This programme is conceived as a 12-month exercise which is halfway through. I hope this will improve the working lives of your members. Their “buy in” and support is important to its success.

The Statement of Expected Behaviour of Judiciary:

This statement sets out the standards of behaviour expected from all judicial office holders in and outside the hearing room; with each other, staff and users.

Treating people fairly, with courtesy and respect is reflected in our oath to “do right to all manner of people… without fear or favour, affection, or ill will.”  

We all have a responsibility to help foster a positive working environment, where diversity is recognised and valued, and everyone is treated with dignity and respect. We are one judiciary; no-one should feel that they are perceived as ‘less than’ because of their differences, personal or professional background, judicial office or jurisdiction. Therefore, we should all:

  • treat others fairly and respectfully;
  • be mindful of the authority we have and be careful not to abuse it;
  • be aware of how our words and behaviour can affect others;
  • remain patient and tolerant when encountering difficult situations;
  • act professionally and courteously, including under pressure, and avoid shouting or snapping;
  • aim to ensure that no one in a hearing room is exposed to any display of bias or prejudice;
  • build effective working relationships with and support judicial colleagues and staff;
  • welcome and support new colleagues; and
  • be open to feedback if we have done something that may have caused discomfort or offence.   

If you see or experience bullying, harassment or discrimination or other behaviour that falls short of these expectations, you may raise it informally with the individual concerned if you feel comfortable or alternatively with your leadership judge, magistrate or another leadership judge. If you want to use a more formal route you may use the Judicial Grievance or whistleblowing procedures or report it to the Judicial Conduct Investigation Office.

This statement builds on, and does not replace, the Guide to Judicial Conduct; and makes it clear that the same standards of behaviour are expected between judicial office holders as they are towards staff and users.  

The Better Case Management Revival Handbook (to which the CBA inputted) is here.

HMCTS – Common Platform Update

HMCTS are running two workshops for practitioners to test the common platform using a ‘dummy case’.

In order for practitioners to try out this ‘dummy case’ system, HMCTS have agreed to have criminal practitioners attend its offices to test out the system.

They have proposed running two initial sessions on Tuesday, 19th September:

  • 10:30-12:30
  • 13:30-15:30

There will be capacity for 10 people in each session.

To sign up, please email: [email protected]


With thanks to those who came to the CBA YBC last week. The work on the magistrates’ fees is continuing with meetings with the LCCSA and LAA pending over the forthcoming months. A document is being finalised to be sent to the Lord Chancellor.


The CBA response to the MoJ document on special preparation/wasted preparation is being submitted today.

The current issue is getting information from the MoJ on spend on both section 28 fees and the new special preparation/wasted preparation fees to date.

It likely is very small and the government is reminded of its commitment to spend £4 million and £3.3 million over the spending review.

These sums of money- even at full spend- equate to a rounding up of figures in Treasury terms. Barristers continue to work hard to deliver justice for victims, witnesses, and defendants in the courts. Despite the political turmoil, the MoJ has built goodwill with the CBA, since has October 2022.

I am keen to avoid any backward step.

International – Mexico 21st and 22nd September

Our international sub-committee is looking for a volunteer(s) to present a workshop in Mexico. This is a joint venture with the International Committee of the Bar Council and the concept is training in criminal investigation alongside international arbitration in a case involving allegations of fraud and corruption.

Do contact Aaron and/or Peter Carter KC if you are interested. Also details of how to book are below:

Business Development Mission to Mexico:
Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd September
Mexico City, Mexico
Full details and to book

Final Words

Recognise your value.

For too long the Criminal Bar has been regarded as a poor cousin of other sectors of the legal profession; and so treated.

Our criminal barristers are the best in the world and our advocacy skills, forensic skills and strategic approach are sought after in regulatory work, international work, commercial cases and libel cases where there is complex cross-examination.

We are engaged to train others on questioning vulnerable witnesses.

We are valued and respected internationally.

Our skills have developed through experience and learning. The gown of a barrister is not a magic cloak.
Continue to take education and training opportunities (as both attendee and trainer, where you have the expertise) Also, recognise the joy and privilege of accumulating a little more knowledge each day.

Also remember the life outside case work.

If you are feeling blocks to working and stress, you will be more productive if you take a break.

Of course, there are many factors affecting this decision and each person has a unique situation.

However, I am confident that you will not look back on your life and regret not taking those extra cases. You will, however, remember the richness of the time you took for yourself and your family and friends. Or just for yourself.

For me, it is three more MMs before I sign off as your Chair. I continue to work on your behalf over August.

Enjoy the summer!

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