The Bar Council provides a regular News Update on general legal issues that will be of interest to our members.
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Friday 12 August 2022
Magistrates’ Court industrial action: Magistrates court workers vote to strike over digital system
City A.M., Thurs 11 August 2022, Louis Goss
Members of the union representing Magistrates’ court workers today voted in favour of plans to strike over complaints about the digitalization of England and Wales’ court systems.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) are calling on the government to reconsider its plans to digitalise the courts through the launch of its Common Platform.
Crown Court backlog: Crown court backlog steadily getting worse
Law Gazette, Fri 12 August 2022, Monidipa Fouzder
The Crown court backlog has increased for a third consecutive month, according to figures published by HM Courts & Tribunals Service – and will only get worse if criminal barristers decide to go on a full-blown strike over legal aid funding next month.
This time last year the backlog stood at 60,162. Aside from a small rise after Christmas, it was steadily falling until April. Progress is likely to have been halted by the decision of hundreds of barristers to adopt a policy of ‘no returns’, withdrawing a longstanding goodwill gesture in which they covered cases returned due to a diary clash caused by a rescheduled hearing.
See also: ‘Striking barristers lead to further court delays’, The Daily Telegraph (print); and ‘Strikes add to backlog of court cases’, The Daily Express (print)
Both outlets quote the Justice Secretary in saying “The only outcome of this unjustified strike action is further distress for victims forced to wait longer for justice.”
Bloomberg, Thurs 11 August 2022, Julian Harris and Siddharth Vikram Philip
From nurses to barristers, dockers to posties, workers across Britain’s industries and professions are ramping up plans to strike.
The Criminal Bar Association plans to ballot members on escalating a long-running spat over state funding and pay into uninterrupted strikes that would commence Sept. 5. Barristers been walking out intermittently following government cuts to the legal aid budget and a record backlog of court cases.
See also: ‘Teachers could be next to strike as Britain’s summer of content deepens’, Metro; and ‘CBA likely to extend strike indefinitely over UK MoJ’s refusal to negotiate’, Canadian Lawyer Magazine
Criminal case outcomes: Almost 1.5m England and Wales crime victims opt not to pursue cases
The Guardian, Fri 12 August 2022, Rajeev Syal
Almost 1.5 million victims of crime in England and Wales have decided not to pursue their cases, feeding concern that public confidence in the criminal justice system has collapsed. Home Office figures unearthed by Labour show there were 1,411,650 victims who did not support continuing action after they had reported a crime in the year to March 2022.
More than 900,000 victims of violence, over 95,000 victims of criminal damage, and over 75,000 victims of sexual offences have given up hope of seeing a conviction, the party said. In 1.1m of those 1.4m cases closed because a victim no longer wanting to pursue a case, a suspect had been identified by police. However, the number of cases where a suspect was not identified has also increased by 30% on the previous year.
Attorney General equality laws speech: Suella Braverman ‘misinterpreted’ equality law in ‘ideological’ attack on trans kids, barrister says
Pink News, Fri 12 August 2022, Lily Wakefield
A discrimination lawyer says attorney general Suella Braverman got equality law wrong in her controversial speech attacking trans kids’ rights in schools. Barrister Robin White told PinkNews that despite the attorney general’s claims, trans children are protected by law.“A suggestion that schools don’t have to respect their rights in terms of, for example, uniform wearing or toilet facility attendance, is completely wrong,” White said.
Robin White is the only openly trans woman in the country to work as a discrimination barrister. She transitioned in 2011, and in recent years much of her practice has been focused on discrimination cases involving trans people and the “gender critical” movement.
Attorney General donations: Suella Braverman received £10,000 leadership bid donation from prominent climate denier’s firm
The Guardian, Thurs 11 August 2022, Andrew Sparrow
Suella Braverman received £10,000 from a company owned by a leading climate denier to support her campaign for the Conservative leadership, according to the most recent update to the register of MPs’ interests.