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Monday Message 13.05.24

Dear colleagues and friends,

It was always clear that without a plan to sustain the publicly funded criminal Bar there would come a time when there would be insufficient numbers of barristers to prosecute and defend and fewer young barristers entering the profession to maintain it.  The implications of this are obvious.  With the growing backlog the lack of capacity at the criminal Bar is now visible in the 1436 trials adjourned last year due to the absence of a barrister.

In June 2021 on the publication of Government’s End to End Rape Review, Ministers apologised unreservedly for failing victims of sexual offences and committed to develop a new national operating model for the investigation and prosecution of rape.  Operation Soteria Bluestone, funded by the Home Office came into being.  On the 5th December 2022, two months after the criminal Bar agreed to go back to work, it was reported victims were seeing “significant improvements in the criminal justice system’s response to rape” (the number of cases reaching the Crown Court was up 91%).  By July 2023 the Government had exceeded its target of more than doubling the number of adult rape cases reaching the Crown Court with the number up by over 160%.

All commendable. But the warnings of a lack of barristers conducting publicly funded work, particularly in RASSO was unheeded. The number of RASSO cases being concluded in the courts has risen thanks to the dedication of the RASSO advocates that remain, but capacity has been stretched beyond its limit.  In 2023 2566 adult rape cases were received into the Crown Court but only 1805 cases were concluded, 500 less than in 2016.

It is now taking an average of 2 years for a rape case to be dealt with in the Crown Court.  That means the rape complainant whose case arrived at court in December 2022 won’t see its conclusion until December 2024.  The victim who reported “significant improvements” back then would still be waiting.  The complainants of July 2023 can expect their cases to be heard not this Summer but next Summer 2025.

We have asked Government to urgently invest in RASSO cases to improve this situation so that the investment and effort of Operation Soteria Bluestone is not wasted.

We continue to work with Government to make sure the investment in the criminal Bar, promised in the “deal” in October 2022, materialises and will work with the MoJ and the CPS in their preparations for the next Spending Review to make sure that the budget for the Criminal Justice system is increased.  However, the urgency in addressing rape cases coming to the courts swelling the backlog, cannot wait.

You may want to look at the LAA’s Headline Intentions document which highlights the main principles of the tender and features of the 2025 Crime Contract.  Further information can be found here.


We are profoundly grateful to “Paula” who bravely agreed to be interviewed as part of the CBA Podcast in our “Criminal Justice Matters” series.  If anyone is in any doubt about the importance of timeliness in the conduct of rape cases please listen.  Delay not only impacts on the individuals involved in crimes of sexual violence, it adversely impacts on attrition rates and feeds the perception that the Criminal Justice System is failing.  Follow this link to the Podcast.  We thank Mary Prior KC, James Gray and Adam Batstone Media & Communications for working on this.

Support for the LCCSA and The Law Society

We have been in contact with the President of the LCCSA to express our concern and offer support in relation to the incident at Stratford Magistrates’ Court.  The LCCSA and The Law Society are in discussions with HMCTS and will keep us informed.

Bullying and harassment

The SPJ during his keynote speech at our Spring Conference signposted the action we should take if we experience judicial bullying or harassment.  We recognise that judges, like us, are under extreme pressure and are not immune from the effects of stress.  However, there is no excuse for bullying in the workplace and the court is our workplace as well as theirs.  We advise that you access TalktoSpot and report any such behaviour.  The link is here.

A formal Judicial complaint procedure can be accessed here.  Members are encouraged to speak to their Circuit Leaders’ in the first instance who would then speak to the relevant court’s Resident Judge.

A statement of expected behaviour from the Judiciary has been published here.

Leicester Crown Court Listing Policy
Accessed here

Please see here all Chambers that are signed up to the CBA Well-being Protocol and who have been awarded the CBA logo.

At our Spring Conference we were also fortunate to be given some tips on how to maintain our own well-being.  Remembering the 4 anchors of Nutrition, Hydration, Sleep and Movement helps our physical wellbeing and we were given this helpful mnemonic for looking after our brains: Breathe, Remember something good in your life, the Anchors, I (there is no I in Team), N the power of NO.

Please remember the support that is out there, do not feel you have to cope on your own.

Be excellent as always,

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