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Monday Message – 31.07.23

The Criminal Bar gathered last week in a way that it has not done for four years.

On a cloudy summer evening, the CBA flung the doors open to its first nationwide social event post the pandemic and its first shindig in many years.

We were a room, balcony and roof terrace of barristers, Judges, the DPP, Bar Council, academics, law officers, legal press, clerks, and other friends of the Criminal Bar.

The attendance comprised a healthy number of around 250, with many travelling across the county, including Caroline Rees KC, Leader of the Wales and Chester Circuit and Jaime Hamilton KC, Leader of the Northern Circuit, Caroline Goodwin KC, former Chair of the CBA, and some Judges. I would love to name check all but the MM would turn into a (very distinguished) roll call.

I hope that it is sufficient to express that the judicial support was appreciated. I benefited from informal chats with Judges when I was a junior and it was inspiring to see this tradition and benefit continuing with our current junior practitioners.

With thanks to Aaron Dolan who organised the event and travelled to attend, to the joy of those who have not seen the person behind the emails and telephone calls. He worked hard to make the function a success and we were delighted to have him back with us.

I spotted at least six former CBA Chairs, including one in retirement from practice but in attendance to support the Criminal Bar. Thank you!

I also send thanks to the inaugural Chair of CLAAB, HH Deborah Taylor who attended at short notice; an indicator of the drive, undoubtedly, she will bring to her new position.

The future of the Criminal Bar was well-represented, and attendees included those who were about to start criminal law pupillages.

The future, of course, is in the present and we keep its light on the juniors in early and mid-point of practice as we continue to keep the path from crumbling whilst striding forward, arms linked with those working alongside.

For those who could not attend and who are interested, my speech can be watched here.

Survey on Sentencing of Pregnant Women

The Inquest findings into the death of baby Aisha Cleary in HMP Bronzefield were published on Friday 28th of July 2023. She was born and died in the prison during the night of 26th September 2019. Her tiny body was not discovered until the following morning.

The Senior Coroner for Surrey, Richard Travers, stated that she “arrived into the world in the most harrowing of circumstances”.

Baby Aisha’s mother was a vulnerable care leaver and had been left to give birth alone in a prison cell, without any care. The Senior Coroner concluded that if the mother’s labour had been identified and she had been transferred to hospital, there would have been an opportunity for Aisha’s survival.

Janey Starling, Co-Director of Level Up, said:

“Prison will never be a safe place to be pregnant and it’s long overdue for courts to stop sending pregnant women there. There are plenty of other countries that do not send pregnant women to prison, including Italy, Brazil, and Mexico, yet the UK lags behind.

“Since the death of Baby Aisha in 2019, a coalition of mothers, midwives and medical experts have joined forces to demand an end to the imprisonment of pregnant women. It’s time for the government to listen to the experts and end the imprisonment of pregnant women. When a mother is supported in her community, she is able to tackle the issues that swept her up into crime in the first place and get the support to give her child the best start in life, and herself the best future.”

The Sentencing Council is due to begin a consultation on the sentencing of pregnant women in late 2023.
Level Up is gathering evidence from criminal law professionals to submit to the consultation and the CBA may also submit separately to the consultation.

The CBA communication with Level Up has been ongoing from the start of the year and we have awaited the outcome of the inquest before launching the survey.


If you have represented clients who are pregnant/have recently been pregnant, in criminal proceedings, particularly at sentencing, please do complete the survey.

With thanks to Pippa Woodrow of Doughty Street Chambers and CBA Treasurer, James Gray for work on the survey.

The survey is short and will not take much time but may impact significantly on potentially new sentencing guidelines for pregnant women.

Access the Survey Here

Chief Magistrate

As mentioned in my MM last week, on the 24th of July 2024, Kate Aubrey-Johnson, barrister at Garden Court Chambers, CBA YBC Chair Zayd Ahmed, CBA YBC member Soraya Bauwens, Vice- Chair Tana Adkin KC and I met with the Chief Magistrate, Paul Goldspring in relation to guidance on Draft Good Practice Guidance on Certificates for Assigned Advocate in the Youth Court, drafted by Ms. Aubrey-Johnson and inputted into by the CBA.

The Guidance is important to ensure proper representation and consistent representation of children in the criminal justice system. The work is ongoing.  It builds on the YJLC paper.

Thank you as always to the Chief Magistrate for the time he has given this year to meeting with the CBA.


On the 25th of July 2023, I met with IBA Chair Geoffrey Carr, Martin Secrett, Chambers’ Director of 9 Bedford Row and Mark Essex, Deputy Senior Clerk of 6 KBW College Hill.

We discussed listing issues and challenges faced by clerks, as well as considered courts where the systems work better.

Many complaints related to lack of communication from the courts and final lists being issued late with significant changes to them.

It was very helpful as a means of identifying repeated and systemic problems and as a brainstorm for solutions.

I thank them for their time and input.

Junior Bar

On 27th of July 2023, Genevieve Reed of the CBA YBC met with the Senior Presiding Judge, Andrew Edis KC for her to present directly to him detail on issues pressing down on the junior bar.

I facilitated the meeting – which had arisen from our Executive meeting – and joined to listen and support.
Not that she needed it.

She addressed listing, fixtures being taken out of lists at short notice, lack of consistency of granting of CVP, increase of number of “fixed floaters” and lack of communication from courts.

One idea that I have articulated, from both clerks and SPJ meetings, is whether there could be a pilot of courts having less cases in its lists and then a review of the data as to its efficiency concerning time for cases to complete.

Undoubtedly, barristers not having time to prepare cases adequately, due to volume of instructions, results in trials taking longer to complete than pre-pandemic. Currently, hearings pre-trial have ticked upwards to seven.

Also, trials start late due to barristers needing more time. That time is not available to them to an earlier stage, as they are working in a system without a pressure valve and so space is found on the first day of the trial.

More tortoise and less hare might be a solution. Steady and methodical as opposed to bounce and fast.
A tortoise listing also would address the stress shouldered by barristers currently expected to act in more cases than previously would have been considered reasonable.

Better Case Management

The Better Case Management Revival Handbook is worth a review!

Do continue to feedback views and problems you encounter to [email protected].


I took part in the Bar Council Wellbeing at the Bar – Leaders Film 2023.

Remember that Barristers can call 0800 169 2040 for the assistance programme for 24-hour telephone support and free counselling or access the website here.

The CBA wellbeing protocol also can be found here.

Podcasts: Criminal Justice Matters

Do listen and promote.

It is about your Criminal Bar.

The aim is to bust some myths around the work we do in the courts as well as provide information and personal perspectives from criminal law barristers.

Our second episode is all about the junior bar.

Episode 1: ‘Strike Action’

Episode 2: ‘Young Barristers at the Criminal Bar’

Episode 3: ‘Prosecutions of Sexual Offences’

As ever, let us know any themes you would like to see covered/ people you would like interviewed.

National Zoom 3rd August 2023

There will be a national zoom at 6pm on the 3rd of August 2023.  The Access link will be circulated on the day.   I look forward to seeing all who can attend.

HMCTS – PRE Project

As you may be aware, HMCTS is currently developing its own in-house technology to support the delivery of the pre-recorded evidence special measure, which is called PRE (pre-recorded evidence). PRE includes an application that will be used by court staff to book and make the recording; it also includes a new portal for advocates to view recordings.

The project to deliver PRE is in its second phase with seven early adopter courts ready to go-live with the new technology. The first courts to go-live will be Kingston and Leeds Crown Courts from w/c 31st July, with the remaining five (Nottingham, Mold, Durham, Reading and Liverpool) going live in September. This forms part of the testing of PRE, before a national rollout is considered.

For the new PRE portal, advocates will need to register and create a portal account in order to be able to use the new service. HMCTS produced a webinar for advocates back in May (available on You Tube: HMCTS Pre Recorded Evidence PRE Portal training for advocates – YouTube) which provided an overview of the portal and how to register. We encourage any advocates who regularly work on pre-recorded evidence cases at the courts named above, to register for a portal account by emailing [email protected]

Southwark Crown Court’s 40th Anniversary

Details are now confirmed for Southwark Crown Court’s 40th anniversary reception on 5th October 2023, which will be held at The Great Hall, Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London WC2A 2LL between 5.30pm and 7.30pm.  Please find attached an invitation with ticketing details.  Tickets can be purchased here from Eventbrite. I’ll see you there!

Final Words

Thank you to all who came to the CBA event last week, to those who sent messages of support from afar and to all those who are working for the Criminal Bar in its sub-committees and on consultations.

Thank you to our members.

The Criminal Bar Association always has thrived when unified and utilising its skills to effect change ahead.

To quote Winston Churchill:

If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.

Onwards and forwards!

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