Special Announcement – Flexible Operating Hours

The Ministry of Justice has announced today that HMCTS is abandoning Flexible Operating Hours in the criminal courts. This is very welcome news. We have been supported by many members of the Judiciary on this and HMCTS has listened.

FOH would have had a very significant discriminatory impact. Many criminal barristers with young children and other caring responsibilities saw this proposal, if brought into force, as the final nail in the coffin of viable professional practice. Most of us arrive at court at least an hour before the court sits and often stay for as long afterwards once formal court business has finished. Not knowing whether it would be an 8.30am start or a 7.00pm finish from week to week, or even from day to day, and at inadequate rates of pay, would have finished many of us off.

Caroline and I have pressed the case against FOH at every opportunity, as Francis Fitzgibbon QC and Angela Rafferty QC did before us. We have raised and explained the profession’s opposition to FOH at meetings with Ministers, Susan Acland-Hood, the Chief Executive of HMCTS in charge of court reform, The Senior Presider, and Sir Brian Leveson, the Head of Criminal Justice. In the phone call I received yesterday, the Minister, acknowledged that the profession’s arguments had persuaded them not to proceed, and that we could and should take credit for that. Our joint survey of members about FOH with the SEC provided empirical evidence they could not ignore.

This does not solve the many remaining issues that are making our working lives more and more difficult but it is a step in the right direction. We are developing protocols on working conditions, and remain optimistic that there will be positive developments on AGFS in the next couple of weeks.

Yours,

Chris Henley QC              Caroline Goodwin QC
Chair                                   Vice Chair

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