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Monday Message 13.03.17

Chair’s Update: 
Francis FitzGibbon QC


Recorder Qualifying Test II
Many of you will have taken, or tried to take, the second test on 6th March, following the JAC’s abandonment of the first one when their website crashed (see Monday Message on 20th February).
A number of people received the email with the test papers earlier than their pre-booked slot – some by as much as 45 minutes, so when they logged on they discovered that that only had 25 of the  allotted 70 minutes left. I have heard of one case of the email arriving ten hours before the slot. Those who called the help-line got advice that conflicted with the instructions on the email. Some were told to wait until the start time, others that the clock ran from the time the email was opened.
Anyone who used of the extra time to study the test papers had a clear advantage over those who did not and over those whose time was cut short.
On top of this, the scenario part of the test paper was published on the JAC website in February, as a specimen paper in a ‘dry run’ exercise. The paper was, therefore, available to anyone who underwent the ‘dry run’ and/or shared it with others.
It scarcely matters whether the numbers who are known to have taken part in the dry run were small, because the integrity of the process has been compromised. Anyone with prior notice of the scenario had a clear advantage over the rest. It would not have been hard to deduce what the questions would be about.
The JAC are continuing the exercise. I have no doubt that they sincerely want to remedy the damage and make the selection process work.
The problem is that the total failure of the first round, and the significant flaws in the second, are cumulatively bound to erode confidence in the whole process. Its integrity and reliability are in doubt.
Vulnerable Witness Training
The CBA-SEC training programme will soon be underway. Lead facilitators will be training batches of facilitators, who will go on to train delegates.
There is a strong likelihood that the principles of cross-examination will be made applicable to all vulnerable witnesses, not just children, so the training could not be more important.
It will also be a valuable component in our new-form CPD scheme. Expect further announcements soon about the timetable.

Youth Courts
The BSB has announced that from this autumn, barristers working in the Youth Court will have to make a declaration that they have reached the standards (or ‘competencies’) in the BSB handbook in order to continue this type of work. The author of MoJ’s Review of the Youth Justice System in England & Wales says he was “… frequently told by magistrates, district judges and lawyers that the quality of legal representation in the Youth Court is often very poor’, and he noted the low rates of pay. There will be no compulsory training, but the principles of vulnerable witness training will be very valuable for compliance with BSB standards.
Common Platform
The Criminal Justice System Common Platform Defence User Researcher will be in Leeds on 14th & 15th March 2017.  They are looking for defence practitioner volunteers willing to be shadowed during this period.

  • Leeds Magistrates Court on 15th March 2017, if you are interested in being shadowed, please select a ticket.

Southwark Crown Court
While only a connoisseur of brutalist architecture would admire the building, the Court has for been years been the leader in complex fraud cases, cybercrime, and other hi-tech criminal cases. While the Rolls Building hosts big-money international commercial litigation, Southwark often handles the criminal fall-out. The work it does is no less important for the reputation of British justice, because it shows that world that fraud is taken seriously, cases are tried fairly, and the right sentences are passed on the guilty. Rumours of plans to close it persist.  Instead, like the Old Bailey, it should be treated as the flagship, not a poor relation.
There will be a meeting at the International Criminal Court on 29th March 2017 between the ICC Bar Association and a number of national and other international bar associations, including the CBA, to discuss the topic ‘What is the best way for the ICCBA to engage with, and have the effective participation of, other Bars?” Anyone who has any comments or suggestions on the topic should contact our new International Director, Rebecca Trowler QC, who is attending on behalf of the CBA.
Advertising & Website Profiles
The Bar Council’s Ethics Committee is advising practitioners to make advertising and website profiles consistent with our professional code of conduct. A bit different in Texas.
HHJ Lithman QC
Congratulations to former CBA Chairman (2013-14) Nigel Lithman QC on his appointment as a Circuit Judge. He will be sitting at Luton Crown Court.

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