Monday Message 07.12.15
Mark Fenhalls QC
The CBA winter conference
The speakers were terrific and they have all our thanks. More than two hundred practitioners from all over the country attended and enjoyed some high class presentations. [You will find these on the website shortly and I commend them to you.] An “A list” of Counsel and academics provided an overview of major legislative changes to the Criminal Justice System in the last twelve months dealing with an array of new offences ranging from participation in the activities of an organised crime group to revenge porn as well as Better Case Management changes and updates to sentencing and other court orders. As ever criminal laws continue to proliferate. As Professor David Ormerod observed, it is quite remarkable that parliament chose to create new offences relating to grooming in two different statutes at almost the same time.
David spoke about the personalisation of criminal law through the use of behavioural orders, and almost simultaneously the Government was announcing a consultation on yet another variant – the Stalking Prevention Order. The Law Commission has an open consultation (running until April next year) that seeks to “to introduce a single sentencing statute that will act as the first and only port of call for sentencing tribunals. It will set out the relevant provisions in a clear and logical way, and ensure that all updates to sentencing procedure can be found in a single place. It is not the aim of this project to interfere with mandatory minimum sentences or with sentencing tariffs in general. Those will remain entirely untouched, but the process by which they come to be imposed will be streamlined and much improved.” As a first step they have collated all the sentencing law in England and Wales Legislation currently in force. This runs to a shattering 1314 pages… almost 200 of which are devoted to behavioural orders. You can download this to your phone – only 5mb – and it is an invaluable resource as well as being a compelling argument in itself for coherent reform.
All the speakers were excellent although HHJ Michael Hopmeier on confiscation and Professor Alisdair Gillespie of Lancaster University on social media and online offending stood out for sheer entertainment value.
These conferences are of great importance, not only in ensuring the continued excellence of the Bar through education, but, also, in maintaining unity and morale in difficult times and it was great to see so many senior and junior members present. As ever none of it would work without Aaron’s tireless efforts and good humour and I am very grateful to him, James Mulholland QC and the rest of the education team who work so hard to put on these conferences.
Several articles were published last week commenting on the “success rates” of students attending different law schools in obtaining pupillage. The numbers are shocking and the costs are horrendous. The recent CBA response to the BSB’s consultation on the subject provides much more information for those interested. It is with some relief that we see that the BSB has at least suspended the widely derided “Bar Course Aptitude Test” that it had previously approved. We welcome this as a first change of direction and hopefully a taste of imaginative reform proposals from our regulator early next year. I can think of no more important area for the regulator to be devoting its energies.
The Court Charge
The Government is to be applauded for withdrawing this ludicrous and ineffective piece of legislation. What a welcome a delightful development to see officials and politicians have the courage to say “that was a mistake; it did not work; let’s stop that and try something else”. Imagine how much better off we would be if more of that attitude pervaded other areas of Government.
The CBA supports the Koestler Trust a long establish prison art charity which does tremendous work in prisons across the country. You can read about the charity’s work HERE. If you are looking for a charity to donate to this Christmas why not start here. £5 from every CBA member would make a spectacular difference. You can donate online via this link.
Better Case Management / Digital Case System CJSM and encryption.
I have written many times about this and provided endless links. Regular readers do not need reminding and will no doubt have already registered on the PCU (professional court user) network. Others would find it immensely useful to watch HHJ Edmunds QC’s lecture on BCM. Whether any of this piques your interest or not, If you take one thing away from this message, it might be useful if it was to make sure that your chambers has in place a functioning and well maintained cjsm email system and that you make sure all members use this for their work from the 1st January next year. Hotmail, gmail, blueyonder, talk talk, btinternet and the rest are not good enough. Someone in your chambers should be taking charge of technology and making sure your systems are up to scratch.