News update from The Bar Council

The Bar Council provides a regular News Update on general legal issues that will be of interest to our members.

The most recent News Updates can be viewed below. If you would would like to sign up to receive this News Update by email, please contact The Bar Council.

6 December 

Inaugural speech 

The Times, The Brief – The Times Law Diary reports on the Chair-Elect, Amanda Pinto QC’s inaugural speech. She is quoted as saying: “We are very concerned at the growth in the number of paid McKenzie Friends who are unregulated, untrained and yet demand money for their intervention — often from the most vulnerable litigants.
“People should be represented by trained, regulated representatives, who understand the law, put their client’s case forward in the best way possible, leading to the most just results achievable.” 
Regarding AI in the courtroom, Pinto stressed three key concepts: justice, fairness and equality. “For all three to be engaged, a judge very often needs to be the arbiter. Replacing judicial decisions, which involve an evaluation of the merits of a case and the exercise of a discretion, with an algorithm is not justice.”
The Brief reports on the Chair-Elect’s speech in an article about Maidstone Combined Court closing due to a fire. 
The Brief reports that: “Calling for increased investment in the justice system in her inaugural speech as the chair of the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, Amanda Pinto QC, said that the government must “invest in the fabric and facilities of the buildings where justice is dispensed”.
Read Amanda Pinto QC’s full speech here.  

Court ID cards 

Lawyer Monthly - Further legal media coverage of the fact that 30 more courts have been added to the court ID card access scheme. 
Lawyer Monthly reports that “while solicitors have to queue and undergo searches, barristers will be allowed to walk straight through the security checkpoint, into court.”
The professional access scheme provides barristers with electronic ID cards around the UK, including London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Oxford and Durham, they can walk straight past the security checks, saving time and personnel resources.
The Bar Council officially grants the access IDs via each barristers’ phone or tablet device, which are then scanned with equipment provided by HM Courts and Tribunals Service.
Richard Atkins QC, Chair of the Bar, says so far, the scheme has “been a success” though there have been “some teething troubles.” 
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Tweet about efficiency of the new ID smart cards in Crown Courts

4 December 

Inaugural speech 

The Brief, Law Gazette & PoliticsHome – Flexible operating hours in courts are ‘an anathema to those with caring responsibilities’ and inhibit diversity at the bar, the incoming chair of the Bar Council has said. 
In her inaugural speech, Amanda Pinto QC denounced the government’s controversial flexible court hours project, in which courts sit outside the traditional hours of 10am to 4pm.
Pinto said: ‘If ever there was a misnomer, here it is. [Flexible operating hours] are not flexible, but rigid and imposed.
‘If the government truly wants to have a diverse bar, truly wants to sustain those with caring responsibilities in practice, truly wants to ensure a cohort of very accomplished senior practitioners of all genders and backgrounds, and seriously wants to have diverse and excellent senior judges of the future, then it must stop the flexible operating hours scheme. It is an anathema to those with caring responsibilities.’
Read Amanda Pinto QC’s full speech here.  

Equality at the Bar 

LegalFutures – Market forces will mean that commercial sets without a diverse gender pool at all levels will soon find themselves losing work to more gender-equal sets, according to a circuit judge who has researched equality at the Bar.
It came as a specialist discrimination law barristers’ set outlined the steps it has taken to reduce discriminatory practices, including bias in work allocation, citing the need to avoid perpetuating gender and other imbalances at the Bar.
Cloisters Chambers in London’s Temple, at which almost half the barristers are women, has employed technology to monitor the allocation of both instructions and unassigned work coming in, to detect discriminatory patterns and help devise strategies to remedy the problem.
Writing in the latest issue of Counsel magazine, two barristers who sit on Cloisters’ management committee, Anna Beale and Claire McCann said data showed female barristers made up little more than a third of the total, while under 16% of QCs were women.
They added that the issue of unfairness in the distribution of work among practising barristers was highlighted in the summer when a four-year analysis by The Lawyer that found female barristers appeared in just 30% of Employment Appeal Tribunal and employment-related Court of Appeal hearings.
In the same issue of Counsel, Her Honour Judge Emma Nott cited a study which revealed that fewer female junior advocates appeared before the Supreme Court than would have reflected their numbers in the profession. 


LawCareers.Net – The body representing barristers has urged the next government to reverse funding cuts which have left the justice system “on its knees”, in a manifesto highlighting hundreds of court closures and the growing number of people having to represent themselves in court despite having no legal training.
The Ministry of Justice’s budget has been cut by 40% since 2010 under successive governments – more than any other government department. As The Guardian reports, more than half of all magistrates courts in England and Wales have closed since 2010, forcing defendants, witnesses, police, lawyers and justices of the peace to travel sometimes more than 50 miles to access local justice.
The Bar Council has made six recommendations to the winner of next week’s general election, including investment and a shift in priorities to make accessible justice a more important part of the court system and restore legal aid. 
The manifesto states: “A properly funded justice system is long overdue. For years, successive governments have damaged it. The cumulative effects of ill-conceived, short-term decisions over the last decade is undeniable.”

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#TwitterQandA with #IAmTheBar Advocates

Inaugural speech of Amanda Pinto QC

@WeAreAdvocate the #ChristmasChallenge19 is live!


2 December 

Court ID cards 

The Telegraph & Argus, Law Society Gazette – Further regional and legal media coverage of the fact that 30 more courts have been added to the court ID card access scheme. 
The professional access scheme – which allows barristers to use electronic ID cards to avoid onerous security checks – is now in operation in 55 courts, including ones in London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Oxford and Durham.
Barristers receive digital identification cards from the Bar Council, which they download onto their mobile phones or tablets. These cards are then scanned at court with equipment provided by HM Courts and Tribunals Service.
Speaking at the annual bar conference, Richard Atkins QC, chair of the Bar Council, said the scheme has ‘so far been a success’ despite ‘some teething troubles’. He said the initiative will be rolled out in all courts by summer next year.

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Paris Bar - opening of the legal year

CCBE confirmed that the UK bars and law societies are members for 2020 in the Brexit uncertainty


29 November 

Court ID cards 

Gloucestershire Live – Gloucestershire Live reports that Gloucester Crown Court is one of the latest courts to introduce the new professional access scheme, which means that barristers can avoid extra checks at the entrance by scanning a barcode on their smartphones.
Gloucestershire Live reports that in the past, the checks led to some cases being delayed and problems were reported to the Bar Council.
Barristers can download their digital ID card via the Bar Council’s MyBar website for barristers. 
The report was prompted by the announcement yesterday that 30 more courts would be joining the new scheme.  


The Times – The Times Law section devotes an entire article to its own analysis of party manifestos and those of the representative bodies of the legal professions. 

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Congratulations to the Law Reform Essay Competition winners


Date posted: 06 December 2019