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Monday Message – 10.07.23

The month of June was confirmed as the hottest month on the global record.

The extreme heat is due to a combination of the El Niño weather event and carbon dioxide emissions.

As El Nino strengthens, July is anticipated to be the hottest month ever with “ever” meaning since the Eemian, some 120,000 years’ ago (Karsten Haustein, from the University of Leipzig.)

Adopting court speak, there are two matters arising.

The most important is the increase temperature of land and sea and the less important, but even more immediate, is that courts should not expect barristers to wear wigs and gowns in stuffy, airless courtrooms.

The second is easy for Judges to consider and approve their removal. As they survey barristers in their King Charles II garb, they need to remember that they may have walked at barristers’ speed from robing room to cells to court(s) and absorbed the full heat in the corridors and poorly ventilated buildings, carrying laptops and the occasional hard copies of documents and textbooks.

The first is a global struggle and the use of the words “climate change” can trigger people to shut down. It feels too removed from our daily lives.

However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made it clear that limiting global warming to 1.5°C is necessary to prevent a sustained environmental and public health catastrophe.

Our work carries social responsibility and so adapting to mitigate our impact on climate change, which falls heaviest on the poorest and most vulnerable, is an extension of the duties we discharge in our work at the Criminal Bar.

Individual chambers can play their part by examining whether they are on a pathway to net zero by 2030, in line with London’s target.

Solid measurable steps are consideration of changing of bulbs to LED lights and installation of solar panels.

The Bar Council support also can be accessed here.

Director of Public Prosecutions’ Evidence

DPP, Max Hill KC gave evidence before the Justice Select Committee on 3rd July 2023.

This is his last time giving evidence as DPP and his evidence is worth a read, as he reflects on the criminal justice system.

Lack of prosecution barristers

The DPP expresses concern at what we have lost and “alarm” at lack of barristers to prosecute.

The CPS is awaiting the impact of the increase on prosecution fees to flow through to barristers. For a reminder of that increase, in effect on the 2nd of May 2023, here’s the MM.

However, one issue is lack of grade 1 prosecutors.

Prosecuting can be a rewarding and interesting career, whether on its own or alongside a defence practice.
I encourage juniors to consider the CPS panels and contact the CBA email with any reservations/questions so we can better understand our juniors.

The CBA continues to work with the CPS to extend well-being for its employees to its barrister prosecutors.

Max Hill KC:

“But looking across the whole system, I am concerned that, unless we see people flowing back to publicly funded crime, as opposed to choosing other areas of practice, we will have an ongoing problem. So I would very much like, as soon as possible, to ensure that we can produce a prosecution advocate every day in every court when listed.

I do have a level of concern about what we have lost. I have another level of concern about the lowest tier of the prosecution panel—panel 1—and the reduction in numbers. We have seen a slowing down in the more junior barristers applying to join the panel. It is not affecting overall panel numbers dramatically at the moment, but if it was to continue, to be very transparent about it, I think we would then need to consider the mix between internal and external advocacy.

The Bar have been through a difficult year. The money has just arrived in their fee schemes. I am waiting to see how they respond to that, but I am alarmed, still, by the number of cases—sometimes listed for trial—where, despite huge effort, we cannot find an advocate. So we need more volume in the system.”

Meeting with the Lord Chancellor

A meeting will take place today.

I will raise the ongoing concern that the Spring review of the section 28 “bolt-on” fee (S.I. laid on 31st of January 2023 and in force on 1st of February 2023) now has turned into a summer review and the increase which was anticipated by the CBA has yet to be realised.


Any positive news on improved access to justice is always welcomed.

However, the MoJ data, published on 29th June 2023 provides a dismal statistical reflection of the functioning of the courts:

  • adult rape cases currently in the backlog are up 289% in 4 years (2,210).
  • Part of the sexual offences case backlog up 191% in 4 years (8741).
  • 341 sexual offence trials were “ineffective” in the first quarter of 2023. That represents a 417% rise of similarly ineffective sexual offence trials on the day set to start compared to the 66 similarly adjourned sexual offence trials during same first quarter in 2019.
  • 2215 trials of all offences were ineffective in the first quarter of 2023; a 91% rise over the same period three years earlier, representing 1,013 more cases than the 1112 adjourned in the same first quarter of 2020, just prior to the pandemic.
  • Whilst delays in the criminal justice system are mainly due to the backlog, there has been an 18-fold rise in 4 years of ineffective trials due to the lack of a prosecution or defence advocate.
  • 34 sexual offence trials were adjourned due to the lack of a prosecution advocate compared to just 1 in 2019.

It is pointless investing £21 million to support rape complainants in 2023- 2024, when cases are not effective at court due to lack of investment in barristers who prosecute and defend.

The amount of money committed on section 28 hearings is just £4 million over the spending review period.

This small amount is unlikely to be realised on current spend limited to a “bolt-on” fee per case of £670 plus VAT.

Importantly, the fee is demonstrably insufficient to retain barristers to conduct trials which include a section 28 recording.

Justice Select Committee

This point was made by Mary Prior KC at the Justice Select Committee on 26th June 2023. John Riley also gave evidence on behalf of the RASSO sub-committee of the CBA.

Further written submissions have been provided to the JSC by Tana Adkin KC and I.

Vice-Chair Election

Congratulations to Mary Prior KC who has been elected unopposed to the position of Vice-Chair of the CBA.

She has worked tirelessly for the CBA, particularly as Chair of the RASSO sub-committee, and is immersed in the issues affecting the Criminal Bar so as to provide strong continuity and support for incoming Chair, Tana Adkin KC.

Barristers with Disabilities

I recommend this excellent report produced by the Magistrates’ Association on inaccessibility of magistrates’ courts to magistrates with disabilities as well as other court users including practitioners.

The crumbling court estate impacts not only on comfort and perception but also places barriers before the diverse community that magistrates’ courts should reflect and hampers diversity at the Bar.

I am following through with practitioners, including considering the disproportionate impact of lack of facilities for those with unseen disabilities.

It is poor enough that there often is no soap, or bins in cubicles, in toilet facilities but for a practitioner managing an ostomy bag, it is unacceptable and strikes at the dignity of the person.

Chair and Committee Summer Drinks Party

27th of July 2023

It is our thank you, to you the Criminal Bar, our members who have supported us and the criminal justice system through a time of pain and stress.

It also is a time to renew friendships and look forward with the strength that comes from positivity.

The Criminal Bar can be a wonderful and rewarding profession.

It still needs investment, but we are building and shuffling forward.

Let’s pause and celebrate our profession and support our juniors.

It would be wonderful to see as many of you as possible on the 27th of July 2023.

Please let Aaron know if you can attend.

Chair’s Essay Writing Competition for Under 7 years’ Call

Please enter!

You will need to indicate which award you are applying for when completing the application form as this will depict which essay you undertake.

The competition is open to members of the CBA under 7 years’ call.

Please complete the application form and return, along with your essay, to the CBA Administrator by noon on Friday 14th July 2023.

Download the application form here.


Luton Crown Court

Progress has been steady in meetings from earlier this year with HHJ Michael Simon, Resident Judge of Luton Crown Court.

Please see the guidance on listing, CVP and written work at Luton Crown Court.

This week, the Judge’s voice is that of HHJ Simon:

“High-quality advice and advocacy from the Bar is one of the pillars upon which the interests of justice stand.

This is particularly evident at Luton, given the very high percentage of serious and/or complex cases that come before the judges here.

We are sensitive to the various pressures on the Criminal Bar in London/South East and seek to do what we can, within reason, to enable the Bar to continue its vital contribution to the court’s goal of efficient and effective throughput of work.

This is in the interests of all concerned as well as the interests of justice.”

Luton Crown Court also has set up a clerks/listing liaison group, with Fiona McAddy as the defence barrister representative.

Basildon Crown Court

HHJ Samantha Leigh, Resident Judge at Basildon Crown Court also has indicated that she wishes to set up a similar group and this is being implemented.

As always, do contact us if you wish to volunteer to assist the CBA members who are working on listing issues.

Save the Date

The Southwark judges are holding a reception at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand in the early evening of Thursday, 5th October to mark the occasion of Southwark’s 40th anniversary in 2023.

Details to follow – for the moment, please save the date and pass the message on.

New sentencing guidelines for Perverting the course of justice and Witness intimidation offences to be published on 12th July 2023

On Wednesday 12th July 2023, the Sentencing Council will publish two sentencing guidelines for:

  • Perverting the course of justice, contrary to common law
  • Witness Intimidation, Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, s.51(1) and s.51(2).

Currently, there are no guidelines for Perverting the course of justice and only limited guidance in magistrates’ courts for Witness intimidation.

The guidelines will be available on the Council’s website from 00.01am on 12th July 2023.

DSCC Contingency Logging Option – An update from the LAA

The DSCC has hit all Service Level Agreements for June.

As you will recall, April’s DSCC performance issues brought about the need to provide reference numbers for cases that could not be logged with the DSCC.

In May 2023 the LAA wrote to explain how to obtain reference numbers for cases that had either:

  1. been accepted directly from the police or;
  2. been retrospectively logged after the required 48 hour period.

Crime contracted providers were able to log own client cases on DSCC Online back to 1st April 2023.  They were also able to log duty cases by sending a form direct to the DSCC.

DSCC Contract Management colleagues have been working hard with HGS UK Ltd to ensure the performance issues have been satisfactorily addressed.

The contingency option was left open to ensure that we were confident performance was on a stable footing.

Given we are now in a good performance position, we closed this contingency down on 7th July 2023.

HMCTS Survey: Communication with the Bar

HMCTS has launched its latest survey to gather feedback on how it communicates and engages with court and tribunal users (including legal professionals, the advice sector, contractors and criminal justice partners).  The survey will close on 31st July 2023 and only takes around 15 minutes to complete.

With the justice system playing a crucial role in society, effective communication and engagement are essential to ensure transparency, accessibility, and trust.  From social media and GOV.UK, to blogs and e-bulletins, working groups, forums and webinars, have your say on what works for you and how you want to receive communications in the future.

Have your say now:  HMCTS Communications and Engagement Survey

Alexander Cameron KC

Members may wish to have the details of a memorial service organised by Alex’s family, which will be on September 14th at 5pm at St Luke’s Church, Sydney St, SW3 and Chelsea Town Hall for afterwards.

Anyone who knew Alex who would like to come is very welcome to do so by sending their name to [email protected]

Final Words

There are many challenges touched upon in this message, from global to local. Together we can drive change.

Over the year, I have resisted drawing from poetry. However, I hope I can be forgiven this one indulgence in pointing out that ultimately, “no man is an island”.

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