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Monday Message 18.07.16

Chairman’s Update: 
Mark Fenhalls QC


The state of the nation and the AGM on Wednesday 20th July

On Saturday I attended my last monthly Bar Council meeting as your Chair.  The Solicitor General, Robert Buckland QC was in attendance and we congratulate him and the Attorney on their re-appointment by the Prime Minister.  I have written to the new Secretary of State for Justice to congratulate her on her appointment.

As you would expect the possible consequences of the political events of the last week or three were at the forefront of discussions.  More of this on Wednesday 20th at the AGM/ Exec meeting at the Old Bailey.  All CBA members are invited to both meetings.    

The Bar Council meeting was addressed by the DPP’s legal advisor, Neil Moore, on the subject of the new CPS guidance about speaking to witnesses. 

There was a vigorous and healthy exchange of views from the floor including a very interesting contribution on behalf of employed CPS advocates which expressed very similar concerns to those of CBA members across the country.  Most of the guidance is spot on and exactly what we all ought to have been doing for years.  The bone of contention is of course the section on informing witnesses as to what the issue in the case is to help them prepare for cross examination.  I am yet to meet a trial advocate in current practice who thinks this is a good idea or that the necessary resources will in fact materialise.  I hope we are wrong. 

But the scheme is in.  It is mandatory and you are expected to comply.  If problems arise either because the increased number of paralegals at court does not materialise and there are delays to trials, or because there are substantive problems and trials go wrong, it is essential that you let us know immediately in writing.  The CPS is going to be monitoring the scheme carefully and will respond if evidence emerges.  I cannot help you if you do not write and tell me what has gone wrong.  Complaining to friends in the robing room is a perfectly understandable response, but it does not help us try to change anything.

On Wednesday at the AGM / Exec meeting Francis and I will do our best to answer all questions about fee reform, listing and court capacity, political developments and whatever else is on your mind.  It will also be a very good chance to meet the Vice Chair elect, Angela Rafferty QC.  

The AGM is scheduled to start at 17.30 with the Exec meeting following at 17.45.

There will be a short reception afterwards in the Old Bailey bar mess at 18.15 (depending on enthusiasm for questions/ debate) and I will be presenting the mess with a framed picture of our first chair, Lord Hutchinson.  Please do come along. 

For reasons associated with CCC security, you will have to give Aaron your name in advance.

SPJ’s Review of the PTPH form / DCS – Your opportunity to contribute

Please see the announcement relating to a forthcoming review of the PTPH form and function.  The SPJ has appointed a small group of experienced Judges from across the country to review what changes ought to be made (subject of course to available money).

Obvious things to consider:  Can the form be simpler?  What about notifications?  How best can we all be alerted to new material?  Are papers being uploaded in the right places and the right file structures being maintained?  Because if they are not, how on earth are we meant to find what has been served on us in each case? 

This is also an ideal opportunity to alert HMCTS to problems you have encountered with the operation of the DCS.

I don’t think this is an opening to review the timescales of BCM, but I would welcome your thoughts anyway.  For example, should there be a longer period after the CPS have uploaded papers before the PTPH?  If so what?

As you can see from the link you can use either of the addresses below to submit your ideas and are asked to do so by 31st August.

[email protected] if your comment is primarily about BCM or the PTPH

[email protected] if your comment is primarily about the operation of the DCS

Whatever you choose to send, I would be really grateful if you could cc in the CBA so that we can consider a collective response and can keep abreast of how the system is (or is not) functioning.

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