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Monday Message – 12.10.15

Chairman’s Update: 
Mark Fenhalls QC


As if there wasn’t enough to do anyway… 
Better Case Management started one week ago.
The “early adopter Courts” are Isleworth, Leicester, Merthyr Tydfil, Portsmouth, Reading and Woolwich.  You will find Lord Justice Gross’ recent letter setting out the changes HERE.   If you have experience of things going well or badly as the new system beds in, please write to me (or your Circuit Leader) as soon as possible.  We are invited to regular meetings to evaluate progress and it is hard to make a proper contribution unless we have up to date accounts from advocates of what is working and what is not.     
The Court Charge is up for debate.
On 21st July the Justice Committee announced an inquiry into the effects of the introduction and levels of courts and tribunals fees and charges.

Last week the LCJ office published a speech he had made in New Zealand on 25th September.  You can read the whole speech HERE, but here are some excerpts. 

“… without proper access to justice, other rights to due process and equality before the law and the detailed principles contained in bills of rights cannot be vindicated. It is also opportune not to overlook what is happening in our contemporary society to access to justice; many unfortunately do.” 
“We have seen in England and Wales significant increases in court fees and the introduction in April of this year of mandatory fees to be paid by those convicted of crimes (either by plea or verdict) … 
… the scale of court fees together with the cost of legal assistance is putting access to justice out of the reach of most, imperilling a core principle of Magna Carta.”

Last week The Times trailed a story that has been published this morning.

“A survey obtained by the newspaper finds that 70 per cent of magistrates have witnessed cases where the mandatory charge has had an impact on sentencing and resulted in a lower or different sentence.”

On Friday morning Francis and I met the Howard League and discussed the gathering of anecdotal evidence about the Court Charge.  If you have been present in a court and think that you have seen the trial or sentencing process distorted or affected in an unexpected way because of the Court Charge, please email me a short summary of what happened as soon as possible.  The results will be shared with the Howard League.
Published estimates of unrecovered fines are currently reported at £571 million.  Surely we would be better served by civil servants devoting their energies to improving collection rates rather than inflating these figures with this charge?  We can only hope that the accountants at the MoJ have not based any future spending plans on revenue which is supposedly going to arise from the charge.

Bar Conference is Next Saturday 
The session run by the CBA and the Young Bar next Saturday is entitled the “Securing the future of the Criminal Advocate”.
Unsurprisingly we will be covering the themes and issues identified in the recently published MoJ Consultation paper.  We will also be examining the rationale behind the proposed replacement scheme for AGFS submitted to the MoJ by the Bar Council HERE.  If you have never attended the Bar Conference before, I urge you to do so this time.  The full programme is available HERE.

Two Tier announcement this week
On Friday the solicitors’ organisations met the MoJ to explore the delay in the award of the “Two Tier” contracts.  It appears that the results of the tender process are to be made public on Thursday 15th October.  The LCCSA press release can be found HERE.
A new future for Advocacy Training?
The Council of the Inns of Court (“COIC”) is setting up “The Inns of Court Advocacy College” in the Spring of 2016, to build upon its successful work with the Advocacy Training Council.  COIC invites applications from anyone interested in becoming a Governor of the College and overseeing its pursuit of excellence in advocacy.  The full details are HERE.

The Bar Standards Board has opened a consultation paper entitled: The Future of Training for the Bar.  The consultation covers the Academic Stage, Professional Stage and Pupillage, and the BSB is potentially looking to overhaul radically the way barristers are trained.  The CBA will be contributing to the Bar Council response, but if you are particularly interested in the issue and have thoughts you wish to contribute, please email them to me this week. 

QASA update 
On 1st October the “Joint Advocacy Group”, comprising CILEx Regulation, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board launched a consultation which the BSB describes as seeking “input on minor changes to QASA”.  The consultation can be found HERE.  The closing date is 24th December.  The CBA Executive will be discussing our response at the next two meetings in October and November.  Please contact your CBA representative in chambers and let them know what you think. 
Mark Fenhalls QC
The Criminal Bar Association
E: [email protected]

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