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Monday Message – 12.06.23

We made our own history this weekend.

The CBA’s Spring Conference, derailed by rail strikes into a Summer Conference and so happily renamed the Spring/ Summer/Whatever Conference, took place in Manchester.

I scoured through the CBA archives and couldn’t find a Spring Conference in the North-West for as far back as the archives stretch, to 2012.

Undoubtedly, in years to come, criminal barristers will be saying “I was there” when this Conference is mentioned.

There were some earnest conversations as northwest met south and northeast; for my part, patiently explaining the importance of Chorley cakes and the difference between a barm cake and a bap.

I didn’t recognise Manchester, devoid of grey clouds pressing over its dank black canals. This time, their dark eyes were dancing in sunlight. There was not a spot of rain or even any spitting.

Love and sunshine.

After shamelessly working my northern credentials all weekend – “northern blood, cosmopolitan heart” (not a bad Morrissey riff, I thought) – I’m back knocking on the door of the Capital, with flat cap in hand.

The news I bring across the CBA nation is that the Spring/Summer/Whatever Conference was a happy event and notably more populated by juniors than past Conferences.

Plus, I felt a fire.

There actually were a couple of fires on the return journey on the Avanti train line, but the fire I am referencing is a flame burst of energy and passion for the Criminal Bar, dancing in stories of challenge and success- of life- that pulse through this profession.

The Bar is far more than being in a court room. It is the camaraderie, the friendships and the opportunities to learn and expand our intellectual horizons.

The respected status that comes with being a barrister or being a KC has to be earned and so is easily squandered on a different fire; a bonfire of self-regard, far removed from the spark of learning. Continued training keeps the Criminal Bar burning bright.

I know lawyers in many jurisdictions gaze in envy at our opportunities.

Grasp them.

We are lucky to have experts that care about the Criminal Bar so as give up their time for us. The Judges, practitioners and academics at the Conference kept the room gripped.

Informative, enjoyable and entertaining, thank you to Keynote speaker Mrs. Justice Amanda Yip DBE, Common Sergeant HHJ Richard Marks KC, HHJ Louise Brandon, Deputy Senior District Judge Tan Ikram CBE DL, Kama Melly KC, Professor Paul Roberts, Dr. Matthew Gibson and Nathaniel Rudolf KC.

If you see Nathaniel Rudolf KC, remember to hum “Sing us a Song, you’re the POCA man” to the Billy Joel tune.

I learned from him that POCA is best understood through three Tom Cruise films – show me the money, you can’t handle the truth and the need for speed.

We received the stark facts of the prison population increase by 5% (Ali [2023]EWCA Crim 232) with remands being the highest since records began. In June, Home Detention Curfew is to be extended from 4.5 months to 6 months.

I will write more on an interesting development at Liverpool Crown Court, namely an Intensive Supervision Court, in the next MM. It is to be launched on 26th June 2023.

Thank you to the Charlotte Newell KC and Paul Jarvis and Monica Stevenson of our Education Committee and all of the Education Committee.  Thank you to the Northern and North Eastern Circuit and to the Judges who travelled to the dinner

Thank you to Aaron Dolan who organised the venue, wonderful food and drinks and put together the excellent delegates’ pack attendees received.

I’ll certainly be cribbing from it.

Above all, thank you to those who attended.

Without you, there is no Conference.

I leave you with a comment from Professor Roberts.

There cannot be a champagne criminal justice system on a lemonade budget.

London Legal Walk 13th June

I am getting a CBA team together.

There’s even a T-shirt.

Please come to Doughty Street for 5.30pm for a few refreshments and we’ll set off at around 6pm. The walk finishes with a street party on Carey Street.

If you can’t join, please consider sponsoring us to raise funds for charities for those in need of legal service.

Friends, family members and furry friends also are welcome.

CBA on tour

We’re off again to visit the Western Circuit and then the Midland Circuit.
Please do come along.

They are informal chats and important for me to fully understand your issues and points of view.

I also always enjoy meeting CBA members.

Wednesday 14th June – Bristol

Guildhall Chambers in Bristol are kindly hosting us for Tea n Cake from 4pm.  As you leave court, please pop over for a cuppa.  My thanks to Anna Vigars and all at Guildhall for looking after us.

Thursday 15th June – Birmingham

St Philips Chambers in Birmingham are looking after us this time.  Wine and nibbles will be available for the Birmingham Bar from 6.30pm.  Please do come along.  My thanks to Richard Atkins KC and all at St Philips for hosting.

Please reply to this email to confirm your place at either meeting.

Chair Essay Prize – open to barristers under 7 years’ call

It’s new and it’s opening shortly.

The sub-committees of Equality and Diversity, Rasso and International have devised titles for an essay competition.

The prizes are £3000 per essay and applicants can enter for one essay.

Chair’s Drinks 18th July Inner Temple London

It’s new and it’s a date for the diary,

The dress code will be black tie. It is the replacement for the CBA dinner which last took place before the pandemic.

Please note it and look out for more details shortly.

It is a celebration of the Criminal Bar, a thank you and it will be fun!

Those who kindly have been saying since January that my term as Chair must be near an end, will finally be right.

You can watch me gently weep…..

….. whilst holding a guitar.

I’ll try to reference London songs by then.

All suggestions welcome (this might not be understood by those who did not come to the dinner and the Conference; but there’s my indulgence) London Calling!

National Zoom

The national zoom was held on 6th June 2023.

Thank you to all who attended. I and many others were reassured by the measured and respectful discussion.

Professionalism is back, as it should be.

I summarised the progress on the deal and the increase in prosecution fees.

For those unable to make the meeting, here is a snapshot:

  • 11th October 2022 first S.I. was laid and in force 31st October 2022- that applied 15% increase to AGFS 11/accelerated asks for cases between 17th September 2020 and 29th September 2022 and with a main hearing (this can be the last day of the trial) after 31 October 2022.
  • 23rd December the second SI was in force for the 8 older AGFS and LGFS schemes (3% of cases) which covers cases from 31st December 2018 (a reminder that previous backlog demands during the action did not go back so far; these are cases pre-CLAR):
  1. The loss of value here was £293000 and rounded up to £300000 and added to the money ringfenced for special preparation and wasted preparation.
  1. 54 cases, pre-31st December 2018, would not receive an uplift; Executive agreed that those in the cases should apply to hardship fund.

This was ahead of phase two of CLAR. The government’s final response to CLAR was on 7th December 2022.

The increase to defence fees in the government impact assessment at the end of 2022  was 17 %.
It will increase as the additions from bolt-ons impact.


  • Section 28 bolt on fee of £670 plus VAT was laid on 31st January 2023 and in force 1st February (after much CBA pressure  – it is very rare and unorthodox for an SI to be laid and in force in 24 hours).
    1. A review is ongoing to increase that fee.
    2. On behalf of the AGFS committee, I drafted the reply to the MoJ paper on 8th June 2023.
  • 27th March 2023 SI –part of the last part of the deal brought in with the value being maintained. This was an additional bolt-on of £62 plus vat to all trials and cracked trials and wasted preparation where the advocate has returned the brief.
  • The explanatory memorandum: “This is in recognition of both the work on preparation for ineffective trials and the increase of the scope and volume of written and audio-visual material work requirements. Currently advocates can be paid for special and wasted work in particular circumstances and this fee expands the categories of work covered and includes consideration of digital, video, audio-visual material and written work. “
  • The MoJ agreed to bring its review forward from the Autumn to July.

CPS Fees

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. In summary:

  • 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.

Medium and Long-term Reform

  • CLAAB was set up on 12th October 2022. It has had three meetings: 28th October, 24th January 2023, 25th April 2023 and the next meeting is end of July. The AGFS Committee includes juniors. I push the importance of diversity feeding into decision making of CLAAB at each meeting.
  • The independent Chair of CLAAB will be announced imminently.
  • Special preparation/wasted preparation fees will be part of CLAAB consideration. Reclassification of offences – where some cases disproportionately remunerate and other disproportionately pay poorly- will be considered.

Magistrates’ Court Fees

The CBA YBC has had an initial meeting with the LCCSA and others. It has produced a report on its survey

I am in the process of setting up a meeting with the LAA and the CBA YBC, supported by CBA officers.

Thank you to Zayd Ahmed and the CBA YBC.

AGFS 15% spend to the end of May 2023 (including VAT)

Measure £ Expenditure
15% Backdated £13,725,111
15% New (30 September SI) £2,105,827
15% uplift total  £15,830,938


The big red flag is inappropriate over-listing.

Members spoke of cases, particularly sexual offences, listed as fixtures and then pulled out of court so that barristers repeatedly were preparing for trials that did not go ahead.

The financial as well as negative impact on mental well-being is a real concern.

We encourage you to continue sending us your experiences.

I am able to raise the cases at the various meetings I attend so that practical examples are considered rather than the remoteness of a sea of statistics.

Another issue is the late publishing of final lists. One demand being made is that there should be no significant alteration between the draft list and the final list.

Members also raised questions about the need to increase the bolt-on fee to section 28 hearings and fully realise the last part of the deal.


Finally, and importantly, Jonathan Higgs KC updated all on work being done to embed the CBA well-being protocol.

He also conveyed progress with meetings with the Crown Prosecution Service who are moving to open up their well-being resources to their prosecuting barristers as well as the in-house lawyers.

This was well received by those at the meeting.

Institute of Barristers’ Clerks Dinner

I was delighted to attend, together with Vice-Chair, Tana Adkin KC at the kind invitation of Geoffrey Carr.

I am taking forward a meeting with clerks to better understand their perspective on listing, in the search for remedies.

It was a lovely event at Lincoln’s Inn, with Sam Townend KC, Vice-Chair of the Bar Council speaking alongside Geoffrey Carr.

He mentioned the survey by the CBA YBC and the importance on the work being done to increase magistrates’ court fees for barristers.

The dinner also was a reminder of the essential and skilled work done by our clerks in managing our diaries and liaising on our behalf with professional and lay clients, listing offices, Judges’ clerks, the Legal Aid Agency, the Crown Prosecution Service, other chambers and barristers.

They take our stress on top of their own and manage it without complaint; or without complaint to us.

Thank you, clerks. You are brilliant and probably have magical powers.

Final Words

Those we admire at the Bar and on the Bench have not gained their status easily, even though it’s important to acknowledge that the playing field undoubtedly rises steeper for some more than others.

As criminal barristers, we enjoy the strut along the highs, but the lows punch hard in the stomach.

Continuing legal education raises our standards whilst providing us with protection. It makes up part of our body armour.

See you in court!

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