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.

21 August 

Court closures  

Daily Mail (print letters column), The Guardian (print and online), Evening Standard (print and online x2), The Sun (print, page 14), PA News Wire, Law Gazette, Grimsby Telegraph (print, page 19), Western Morning News (print, page 26), Brinkwire, Brighton and Hove News
Nearly half of all crown courts across England and Wales were left empty on Monday, a survey suggests, even though lawyers say they have never known the backlog of criminal cases to be so bad.
 
Although there is usually a seasonal dip in trials during the summer, the extent of the underuse prompted warnings about delays to justice from the two main legal professional bodies – the Bar Council and the Law Society.
 
The survey, coordinated by Jonathan Dunne, a Nottingham-based criminal barrister at KCH Garden Square chambers, found that 127 courtrooms out of 260 were sitting idle. In Leicester, for example, four out of six courts were empty. In Snaresbrook, east London, 11 out of 20 were silent.
 
Richard Atkins QC, the chair of the Bar Council, which represents barristers, said: “That so many crown courts are sitting empty will come as a devastating blow to those victims of crime who are waiting for their cases to come to court or who are waiting for justice to be done to those who have admitted committing crimes against them.
 
“Whilst I am encouraged by the news that the government intends to increase the number of serving police officers, funding must be provided to ensure that those who are alleged to have committed crimes can be placed before a functioning court without delay. Justice delayed is justice denied.” 

Criminal justice statistics  

Australasian Lawyer – Further reports on Bar Council’s warning over the recently published criminal justice statistics. 
 
Despite crimes increasing, the number of people prosecuted or handed out-of-court disposals has fallen to the lowest level ever, the data showed. Crime reported in England and Wales increased 8% to 5.9 million in the year ending March. The number prosecuted or handed penalties for crimes in the jurisdiction dropped 2% to 1.59 million in the same period.
 
“These statistics make for grim reading; however, the state of the criminal justice system is far worse than the figures show. The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service said recently that ‘overall police [crime] detection rates nationally are woefully low’ and that the ‘courts are emptying, not filling.’ If crime is not detected, it cannot be recorded, investigated or prosecuted, so the official figures are just the tip of an iceberg. Criminals are going about their business unchallenged: fraud goes virtually unpunished and is not even included in the statistics,” said Richard Atkins QC, chair of the Bar Council.
 
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Zoe Henry on Wellbeing

19 August 

Criminal justice
 

Cotswold Journal, Droitwich Advertiser, Evesham Journal, Evening Chronicle (Newcastle) - print, Hereford Times, Ledbury Reporter, Dudley News, Redditch Advertiser, Stourbridge News, Burton Mail (print), Southern Daily Echo (print), Derby Telegraph (print), Worcester News, Yorkshire Evening Post (print), The Sun (print), LBC (x2) – Further national and local coverage of Richard Atkins QC, Chair of the Bar’s comments in response to the government’s latest criminal justice statistics.
 
There were 1.59 million people formally dealt with by the criminal justice system in England and Wales between April 2018 and March 2019, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said, a drop of 2 per cent on the previous year.
 
Richard Atkins QC, chair of Bar Council, said: "Criminals up and down the country will be rubbing their hands with glee knowing that even if their crimes are detected and they are caught by the police, the chances of them being prosecuted or jailed are slim."
 
The Daily Mail also re-runs the Chair’s comments in a separate story, writing:
 
PC Harper's death triggered a fresh debate over the level of serious crime on Britain's streets. Only yesterday, Richard Atkins QC, the chairman of the Bar Council, warned that criminals were 'going about their business unchallenged'.
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair-Elect of the Bar also appears on LBC on Friday evening, speaking to Andrew Pierce about the lack of funding in the criminal justice system and lack of deterrents for criminals. 

BAR COUNCIL TWEETS @thebarcouncil

Phillippe Sands QC session during this year's Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference

16 August 

Criminal justice statistics  

Independent, The Times, The Guardian, Daily Mail (print and online), Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, The Sun, The Scottish Sun, Daily Star (print, page 2), Politics Home, Public Finance, Yorkshire Post (print and online), Kidderminster Shuttle, Business Fast, Law Gazette, the barrister, PA News Wire, LBC, Western Daily Press (print, page 11) – Coverage across mainstream and legal print and broadcast media of the Chair of the Bar’s recent comments. 
 
The number of people prosecuted or handed penalties for crimes in England and Wales has fallen to a record low despite a rise in the number of offences. Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice showed the figure dropped by 2 per cent to 1.59 million people in the year to March. The number of people prosecuted, convicted and jailed all fell, even though crimes recorded by police rose by 8 per cent to 5.3 million in the same period.
 
Richard Atkins QC, chair of Bar Council, is quoted as the lead on most stories. He said: “Criminals up and down the country will be rubbing their hands with glee knowing that even if their crimes are detected and they are caught by the police, the chances of them being prosecuted or jailed are slim.
 
“These statistics make for grim reading, however, the state of the criminal justice system is far worse than the figures show.”
 
Mr Atkins said the statistics were “just the tip of the iceberg” of problems in the system, which he described as “broken”.
 
“Criminals are going about their business unchallenged: fraud goes virtually unpunished and is not even included in the statistics,” he added.
 
“The Bar Council, MPs, senior judges and others have been calling out for reversal of the draconian cuts to the justice budget – the steepest cuts to any public service.  
 
“Our democracy, society and our economy depend on a properly functioning, fair justice system that the public can have faith in. Sadly we fear that this is no longer the case.” 

Bar council elections 

New Law Journal – Paper ballots have been ditched. Instead, the 16,500 barristers of England and Wales will be able to log in to their MyBar account to vote.
 
To highlight the move, the Bar Council will run an awareness campaign #BarGoesDigital. The ballot opens on 4 October and closes on 21 October.
 
Malcolm Cree, chief executive of the Bar Council, said: ‘Given the importance of the elected Bar Council, we are determined to make participation in elections and the work of the Bar Council as efficient as possible for those we represent.’
 
The Bar Council meets eight times a year, providing a platform for debate on issues affecting the profession, the rule of law and justice; its meetings are regularly attended by the Attorney General and Solicitor General. 

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Atkins QC and Nick Ferrari LBC spoke about the criminal justice statistics

Apply for the Certificate of Recognition - Wellbeing at the Bar

Bar Council Law Reform Essay Competition 2019

 

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Date posted: 19 August 2019