Monday Message – 24.04.23
To those of our Criminal Bar who celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which began at sunset of the first sighting of the crescent moon, the Chand Raat.
This year the crescent was impossible to see from the UK, so there was a “divided Eid” with some British mosques and organisations following the declaration from Saudi Arabia of 21st of April 2023, whilst the Senior Scholars on the moon sighting board declared the date as Saturday 22nd of April 2023, after a complete 30 days of Ramadan.
With the new moon, came a change of Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, foreshadowed by the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab MP after the Investigation Report into his conduct by Adam Tolley KC.
For lawyers, there is a nod to “bad character” and the Criminal Justice Act 2003 in the report. There clearly should have been a criminal junior instructed who, applying the cab rank rule, would have acted.
New Lord Chancellor
I congratulate Alex Chalk KC MP and will write to him formally requesting the meeting that was pending with his predecessor.
The new Secretary of State must hit the ground at a sprint, whilst fully delivering medium and long-term reforms to legal aid and bridging the gap between the actual – the reality- and the possible – a wide arc.
CBA analysis of the Ministry of Justice statistics, released on 23rd March 2023, between October and December 2022, show that 118 trials of sexual offences cases were adjourned on the day, all deemed “ineffective”, because there was no barrister available, either to prosecute or to defend.
This represents a 10-fold increase on the same final quarter in 2021 when 15 such sexual offence trials were adjourned due to no prosecution or defence barrister being available.
It has increased 30-fold from 2018 when just four such trials were similarly adjourned in that three-month period.
The overall case backlog for sexual offences rose from a then-record 7,906 at the end of September 2022, to a new high of 8,312 at the end of December 2022.
The Secretary of State’s attention will be drawn to the final part of the deal on barristers’ defence fees, the ongoing remuneration reviews via CLAAB, the need for an urgent appointment of a Chair of CLAAB and the promised imminent review of section 28 fees, with a view to their further increase.
Last week James Gray, CBA’s Treasurer and I met with the Attorney General and discussed prosecution fees, legal aid fees, barrister retention and justice mechanisms in Ukraine.
We also met with Andrew Cayley KC, Chief Inspector of HMCPSI.
The Lord Chief Justice kindly made a considerable amount of time available for a meeting with me and we had a focused discussion on the key challenges faced by barristers.
I was delighted to join Bar Council Chair and Vice-Chair, Nick Vineall KC and Sam Townend KC, and Christian Wisskirchen, Head of International Policy, in a meeting with the Chairman of the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh, Suvir Sidhu, and members of their Bar Council.
I met with Better Justice Partnership, which is a partnership between the Howard League, Nacro and Transform Justice to explore potential policy work with criminal barristers. As always, do contact if you might be interested.
Vice-Chair Tana Adkin KC and I also had a meeting with Ministry of Justice officials.
The third meeting of CLAAB is on 25th April 2023.
The CBA launched the first of its podcast series “Criminal Justice Matters”.
It is a reflection by Laurie- Anne Power KC and I on the period from September 2022 onwards; with a few personal stories and some myth-busting along the way.
Have a listen and please let us know your thoughts.
The next podcast will focus on the Junior Bar, and the juniors interviewed will show how it should be done.
As criminal barristers fan out across the country today, prosecuting and defending in our often-dispiriting court buildings, before our hard-working Judges, there is a bond that will develop out of each case.
It can be a bond grown from legal arguments as we develop our common law.
It might be a bond forged from a witness’s dignity and courage; a flash of evidence of humanity that stuns all in the courtroom and transcends into a shared experience.
Practising in Criminal Law has a powerful effect on all involved.
We also should not forget that it is a responsibility, and cases are people, who need our time and expertise.
We must assist our juniors to push back against unrealistic cross-court demands, whether from Chambers or from listing officers, which descend into sources of stress for all.
Southwark Crown Court HHJ Grieve KC Valedictory
On 27th April 2023 at Southwark Crown Court in Court One at 9.30am.
I will be there on behalf of the CBA.
I know that HHJ Grieve KC will be delighted to see a good turnout.
A few words about HHJ Grieve KC from David Spens KC, a former Chair of the CBA:
To be a circuit judge at Southwark Crown Court trying a succession of long, paper heavy, often multi-defendant cases is one of the most demanding tasks a judge can face. It requires considerable hard work, unwavering concentration, and dedication, all of which Michael has given to his role over the last twelve years with conspicuous success. For us at the Bar it has always been a pleasure to appear before him. He has been unfailingly courteous – never grumpy or dismissive – to all advocates, young and old, regardless of gender and ability. Thankfully he has never forgotten what it is like to be at the Bar. He is held in high regard. Every party to a case has known they would receive a fair trial, and they did. That is an achievement in itself. His grasp of the law, aided by his own intellectual curiosity, is second to none, and few have had grounds to criticise his exercise of judgement. His approach to cases always has been open minded: refreshingly he listens to arguments good, bad, or indifferent before forming a view. Fairness is his watchword. He will be a hard act to follow, and his professionalism will be much missed.
Manchester “Spring” Conference
This now is in the summer due to the rail strikes that took place in the Spring, but it is still called “Spring”; for now.
Don’t be alarmed if it becomes the “Summer Conference”.
It is the same one.
Although sometimes the end and start of each day is a fog, at least we haven’t lost track of our seasons.
I look forward to seeing old friends and colleagues and making new ones.
Barristers’ Working Lives 2023 survey
The 2023 Barristers’ Working Lives survey is now live for all practising barristers in England and Wales to complete. This is the fifth BWL survey and data from previous surveys has helped to inform the Bar Council’s work to promote, represent and support the Bar – from gaining a better understanding of discrimination, bullying and harassment at the Bar to providing strong evidence for government consultation responses and helping to shape resources and services for barristers.
The more data the Bar Council can collect, the richer the analysis that’s available to circuits, SBAs, and Inns. Please take the survey and answer as fully as possible – you can skip any questions that you do not wish to answer.
The survey takes around 15 minutes and closes at 17.00 on Monday 22nd May.
Oxford University Press Survey
For every completed questionnaire, OUP will donate £3 to Save the Children.
Memory Beliefs Survey
Are you a practising barrister? If so, you are invited to join an anonymous, online survey.
How does memory work? Are memories stored forever? What you know and believe about memory, is important.
This survey is voluntary, confidential and quick (takes about 10 mins).
This survey is part of a nationwide study of lawyers’ memory beliefs. It has been approved by the Science and Health Faculty Ethics Committee at the University of Portsmouth, England.
Racial Bias and the Bench
Further important reading.
Whilst the “possible” of the funding and conditions of the Criminal Bar can always be pitched by us, as individual barristers, as high as the moon’s crescent, we are gaining success with the actual in arresting how far the criminal justice system can fall by holding up a solid floor.
We now are striding forward on that floor and strengthening it with each step.
Thank you for all the communication, information and work for the Criminal Bar.
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