Monday Message 20.02.23
Happy Shrove Tuesday for 21st February, the origin of which harks back to a time when Christians went to confession and so were shriven from their sins.
And with this tenuous link, I turn to some of the sins of the criminal justice system. When recently I gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee which was examining policing in crisis, I was asked where limited police resources should go, to what police work. I answered that it was the wrong question. Police forces should not be forced to pick and choose which crime to investigate. The crime of a trickster defrauding a vulnerable person lands as heavily on that person as another crime deemed more serious in the offences matrix. The question should be how we have travelled backwards to settle alongside many other jurisdictions where it is pointless reporting a theft of a phone or a bag as there will be no investigation. The question should be how we speed forward to a criminal justice system which again connects law to justice.
And whilst we continue with medium and long-term reform to replenish our diminished pool of barristers available to prosecute and defend in cases, we also need to ensure that when the cases reach court that our standards are high. High standards ensure that our value is sustained.
Liberal legalism is our pragmatic, preferred and dominant response to crime, but it is interacting with witnesses, defendants and jurors every day that maintains our humanity. We step up to our role in delivery of justice whilst crime snips at society’s ties and dims the light of a shared membership in a moral community.
However, barristers also have welfare needs and a baseline expectation to a life outside work. Examples of inappropriate listing, including issues with cases which have sucked hours of preparation but then been ineffective, have been helpful when we have communicated with Resident Judges and through the Crown Court Improvement Group. But the CBA needs further analysis in order to assist its membership.
The HMCTS in meetings has addressed perceptions that listing officers work to targets in listing trials and conveyed that they do not but work under the direction of the Resident Judges at each Crown Court centre. We have been told that the higher the number of ineffective trials, the worse is the performance appearance of HMCTS when subsequently scrutinised. Many of you will find this surprising but we made the query in response to this widespread viewpoint and then decided to gather our own data.
Please fill in this survey which will examine whether there is a trend of cases being listed before 10.00 hours and after 16.30 hours – in Crown Courts and Magistrates’ courts – and other issues, including the Common Platform. Your views matter in building evidence, identifying specific courts, and then pursuing remedies. Without your evidence, efforts and improvements stall and are misdirected. It is important that we keep welfare of barristers at the forefront and be aware of the danger of burn out, particularly of our most junior.
This message always gives a snapshot of the work by the CBA. One aim since I became Chair was to revive the various sub-committees so that we can better utilise our expertise in public spaces. Too often I observe that government advisors on criminal justice policy are lobbyists who have a narrow experience removed from expertise of the Criminal Bar.
The RASSO group, under the leadership of Mary Prior KC, with John Riley as deputy, is moving towards a launch in April.
I also am delighted that Peter Carter KC has agreed to Chair the International Committee, one of three core sub-committees under the Constitution.
Please get involved and encourage your Chambers to join.
The CBA officers meet every week and as an Executive every month; increased from bimonthly, with sub-committees reporting to it, and with Heads of Chambers every two months, the next meeting being on 23rd February 2023.
There are frequent meetings with politicians, both government and shadow government and at least one meeting a week with the Ministry of Justice. There were three MoJ meetings in the last week as we push through the last part of the deal.
I have a meeting today with Jerome Glass, Director General for the Ministry of Justice’s Policy and Strategy Group. It is anticipated that there will be a further meeting this week with Mike Freer MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Ministry of Justice.
Further, I attend the Bar Council meetings, including their Remuneration Committee and have constructive meetings with the Circuit Leaders. There also are the Legal Professional Bodies Court Recovery meetings and meetings with the Crown Court Improvement Group, Chaired by the Senior Presiding Judge. Feedback on the implementation of the Better Case Management Revival Handbook also is welcomed.
All meetings provide an opportunity to raise court issues with the relevant stakeholder, including with the Prison and Escort Service. Often it is a small alteration in practice that makes a barrister’s professional life easier. And so, in addition to the survey, please keep in communication. It is your voice that matters.
Equality and Diversity and Social Mobility
This year, the CBA is supporting and assisting to fund the 10,000 Black Interns Bar Steering Group. It is a cross-industry initiative aimed at increasing access to various professions for Black students and graduates. The Bar Steering Group is made up of barristers and chambers volunteers, supported by the Bar Council. The pilot of the Bar Internship programme was last year, where 24 interns took part in work experience placements organised collaboratively by 70+ Chambers and other Bar organisations. The students are paid a grant at the London Living Wage to cover the internship for six weeks. Many finished their placement with a clear path accessible to them to the Bar. Currently, there are over 80 chambers signed up to host interns in 2023.
Meanwhile, the CBA is working alongside the judiciary on reverse mentoring. Please get in touch if you are or know of a junior barrister from a minority background who would like to shadow a Judge. You will be assisting the judiciary look at this career path through the eyes of someone whose vision may not have included becoming a Judge whilst also clearing barriers to the judiciary.
Further to additional money being secured for the equivalent increase in prosecution fees to defence fees, the CBA continues to work alongside the CPS towards implementation. We will keep you updated.
The Hardship Fund remains open for applications for those of you who may be in need, particularly having come through payment of tax. Please apply.
Those of you who responded to my previous Monday Message, volunteering to work in Ukraine justice mechanisms, please send a C.V. to Aaron Dolan. I now have had a follow up meeting with the government Head of the International Team and emphasised the skills of our criminal barristers, well trained and expert in the evidence analysis and witness handling, required in international criminal justice cases.
Further, the CBA is supporting the Bar Council “Day in Court for Ukrainian Lawyers” scheme which will involve pairing a Ukrainian lawyer with a barrister; the Ukrainian lawyer will shadow the barrister in court, in a similar way to a mini pupillage.
An additional message will be sent shortly detailing how you can join the scheme and so have a Ukrainian lawyer attend court with you.
The CBA education series is underway and receiving record audiences.
With thanks to our brilliant Education and Training Committee, led by Charlotte Newell KC and Paul Jarvis. The PowerPoint slides from the latest talk on defence fee billing by Martin McCarthy are available. There remains significant underclaiming in cases.
Please do come to the Spring Conference in Manchester on 1st April 2023 and to the dinner the night before. It will be an excellent opportunity to meet and spend time with colleagues as well as to develop professionally in a time-friendly and easy way; listen and absorb.
Update from LAA Claims (AGFS):
A new field has been added to Crown Court Defence (CCD) to record the date of the ‘main hearing’ when you submit your claim. Completing this field means that caseworkers do not have to manually calculate the 15% uplift. This guide will help to process claims more quickly and more accurately.
Common Platform Presentation by HMCTS
HMCTS is hosting a webinar for defence professionals on Wednesday 22nd February at 1pm. You can find out about advertised recent progress made introducing the Common Platform case management system to criminal courts, plans for further implementation and see a demo of new features.
The education events and various mentoring schemes, spark again the memory of why we work in criminal law. Funding is crucial but also the accountability mechanism of criminal justice lays people bare at their most vulnerable, with eyes turned to the courts for resolution. This dependence on defence and prosecution is in itself is a driver for barristers. It also is responsibility that we wear heavily and that we wish to discharge with pride in our profession.
We want to point to a world class criminal justice system again.
Step by step and together we will get there. Thank you as always for your support of the CBA.
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