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Monday Message 11.01.16

Chairman’s Update: 
Mark Fenhalls QC


A belated thank you.
I should have found space at the end of last year to thank our outgoing Chair of the Bar.  
Alistair MacDonald QC served the Bar with distinction in 2015 and we owe him our thanks for his tireless efforts. 
It is only in the last two years that I realised how hard the Bar Council works on behalf of all barristers and in particular the huge effort it puts in to the interests of those specialising in criminal work.  I know this is often not immediately apparent to all, but it really is true. Please make sure that when you renew your Practising Certificate that you also pay the additional “Bar Representation Fee”.  Why pay the extra fee?  Well s51 of the Legal Services Act 2007 prevents the Practising Certificate Fee from being used for many of the crucial functions that the Bar Council performs.  The changes to payment of the PCF have happily reduced its cost for many criminal barristers.  But if the Bar Council is to continue to perform its crucial roles on our behalf it really does need you to pay the BRF.  You can find more detail HERE.
New QCs
The list was published this morning.  Huge congratulations to all those who have succeeded and commiserations to those who have not.
Opportunity to help shape the work of the Sentencing Guidelines Council
In February the SGC will publish a consultation on the draft guideline for reduction in sentence for a guilty plea.  During the consultation period the Office of the Sentencing Council is carrying out a small exercise speaking to a number of criminal defence solicitors and barristers about the draft guideline.  If you think you may be able to give around 45 minutes of your time to participate in this research exercise, which will be conducted by telephone during February and March, please fill in this short form.  A member of the Office of the Sentencing Council’s research team will then be in touch to tell you more about the research and what is involved.
Better Case Management (“BCM”)
BCM went nationwide last week on 5th January.  What does this mean?  A good starting point would be to read the latest update letter issued by our new Senior Presiding Judge, Lord Justice Fulford.  This update contains pretty much everything you need to know.
Anyone who is free in London this afternoon is invited to attend Court Number One at the Central Criminal Court at 4.45pm for a Local Implementation Meeting to discuss / learn about BCM and the Digital Case System (DCS). The meeting will be chaired by the Recorder of London and the Court would like as many attendees as possible whether you usually prosecute or defend. 
Preliminary Hearings and PCMHs are no more.  They have been replaced by a single Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing (PTPH).  The PTPH will generally take place 28 days after sending.  There is some flexibility in this date.  Advocates who want their PTPH moved by a day or two to accommodate their diary would be well advised to be in a position to show Resident Judges and List Officers that they have fulfilled their “duty of engagement”, communicated with the other side and done what they should have done to identify the issues in the case.
Where not guilty pleas are expected the PTPH form should be completed by the prosecution 7 days before the PTPH and sent to the court and defence.  The defence need to complete their part 48 hours before the PTPH.
There is of course much more detail.  But keep an eye on one thing in particular.  If you find that the police and CPS are habitually not serving sufficient material in the initial tranche of papers to enable you to give meaningful advice / engage before the PTPH, please let us know.
Digital Case System (“DCS”)
DCS is also rolling out across the country.  We may all soon be looking at unused rolls of pink ribbon in clerks’ rooms across the country with an even greater sense of nostalgia.  In the South East for example Croydon and Kingston go live today; Blackfriars follows next Monday.
Every chambers should check that all members have sorted their cjsm email, registered on the DCS system and each is up to speed on how they are going to be granting access to cases.  Some members will inevitably need help with their computer literacy.  The system is not meant to be ageist, but may prove harder for some of those who started practise well before the internet age; they may need more support from chambers.  It may soon be all but impossible to conduct cases unless you have a modern laptop or tablet that can connect to the system.
This link tells you where you can attend training sessions in person or on online for the new system currently being rolled out.

If a case is returned within chambers, your clerk should arrange access to DCS, not the CPS or defence solicitor. The same applies if the case returned out of chambers.  Make sure all your members and staff are trained and up to speed
The work of the CBA in 2016
There is much else to do.  We await the government’s response to the autumn consultation and to see what proposals emerge.  Our sister profession faces ongoing turmoil over the duty contracts, which causes immense personal distress and is no good for anyone in the CJS.  The dispute seems likely to run and run into May and beyond as you can read in today’s Law Gazette.
We must keep lobbying for the end of warned lists, which are the enemy of good case management and damaging to the interests of witnesses, complainants and defendants.
Your executive meets for the first time this year on 20th January.  Please write if there is something you want addressed. 

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