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.

11 November

 Justice system 

The Independent – The justice system “will break down” and allow crimes to go unpunished if the next government does not provide hundreds of millions of pounds in investment, it has been warned.
A union said there are not enough crown prosecutors to deal with current cases, and that the situation will worsen if the 20,000 new police officers promised by Boris Johnson solve more crimes.
“It isn’t just about bobbies on the beat, it’s about the entire system,” FDA national officer Steven Littlewood told The Independent. “If they do recruit all these extra police, who is going to prosecute the criminals they catch? The court system is crumbling, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is under-resourced. It needs a huge cash injection.”
The number of criminal trials in England and Wales has dropped to a record low, with almost 67,000 fewer held in 2018 than in 2008. Official figures also show prosecutions plummeting for all types of crime, to just 7.4 per cent of the offences reported to police – a fall of 41,700 in a year. Only 1.4 per cent of reported rapes, 3.3 of sex offences, 5.4 per cent of thefts and 7.8 per cent of violent crimes are now prosecuted.
In its own “manifesto for justice”, the FDA has proposed solutions including increased funding for the CPS, the examination of seized digital devices, legal aid and competitive pay to recruit and retain criminal lawyers.
The Labour Party has supported the FDA’s manifesto, as well as the Law Society, Bar Council and anonymous campaigner the Secret Barrister.

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5th English Law Week in Russia

Changes to court and government WiFi on 11/11

8 November 

Late payments

New Law Journal – NLJ reports that the Bar Council has launched a review into the issue of civil law (non-family) barristers waiting months, if not years, to be paid for work on legal aid high-cost cases. The Bar Council is looking for specific examples of late payment to demonstrate the type of problems experienced. Once it has gathered sufficient hard evidence, it will raise the issue with the Legal Aid Agency. 
NLJ reports that barristers affected should email Kathy Wong with examples by 14 November, at

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Spot - online tool for barristers

6 November 

Pro bono week 

Legalcheek - The number of barristers undertaking pro bono work hit record highs last year, new stats reveal.
Never shared publicly before, the Bar Council figures show that one in every four barristers practising in England and Wales undertook pro bono work in 2018.
The legal charity Advocate (previously known as the Bar Pro Bono Unit) says the new numbers demonstrate the “growing commitment” of individual barristers to “fighting inequality” in the legal system. It goes on to acknowledge that whilst pro bono cannot substitute for a properly funded legal aid system, the figures highlight the important contribution made by volunteer lawyers.
Armed with its own stats, Advocate revealed its volunteer barristers clocked up over 10,000 hours of pro bono work in 2018. This equates to just shy of £2.25 million in uncharged fees.
Richard Atkins QC, chair of the bar said: “I am delighted to acknowledge the valuable work done by many busy barristers, who give of their time freely to support those who would not otherwise be able to enforce their legal rights. Pro bono work is essential because of the limits of public funding. Those who do pro bono work provide a vital public service. I am very grateful to all involved.” 

Court reform 

Legalfutures - The government’s court modernisation programme may not be completed by the deadline of 2023, the House of Commons public accounts committee (PAC) has warned in its latest report on the project.
The committee described the HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) as “struggling to deliver all it promised” and said it was “not doing enough to understand the impact on court and tribunal users” before pressing ahead. 
The PAC said this was particularly the case with court closures.
The committee said the courts service had improved the way it communicated with stakeholders, such as the Law Society and Bar Council, but “representatives from the legal profession do not feel listened to”. 

Pro bono awards & annual bar conference  

Family Law – The Bar Pro Bono Awards recognise excellence in pro bono across the Bar. This year headline sponsor is LexisNexis and supported by the Bar Council. The judges include the Secret Barrister, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Burnett, and the Chairs of many of the Bar’s leading associations and committees.
The awards ceremony will be in the presence of the judges on 6th November 2019. However, the Life time Achievement in Pro Bono and Young Pro Bono Barrister of the Year awards will be given by Lady Hale at the Bar Council’s Annual Bar & Young Bar Conference on 23rd November. 

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23 Nov Bar Conference

Westgate Wealth Management sponsoring the Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference 2019

Record high number of barristers undertaking pro bono cases; Christmas Quiz celebrating 100 years of Women in Law

4 November 

Election results  

New Law Journal (print) - The election results for the 2020 Bar Council have been announced. 
Self-employed barristers are represented by: Steven Thompson QC, Sydney Chawatama, Grace Ong, Deshpal Panesar, David Christopher Taylor; Anton van Dellen; and (in the under seven years in practice category) Michael Polak and Natasha Shotunde. Representing employed barristers are: Shelley Brownlee; James Kitching; Ryan Richter; Philip Bennetts QC; Marie-Claire O'Hara; and (under seven years in practice) Michael Harwood. 

Pro bono week 

Law Society Gazette - The voluntary contribution of the legal profession to help those in need is being celebrated through a series of events across all the home nations for the first time to mark Pro Bono Week, which begins on Monday [4 November]. 
Now in its 18th year, the key themes for this year's week-long celebration are highlighting how legal volunteering makes a difference to the public, showcasing pro bono work and achievements of volunteer lawyers, demonstrating the career value of pro bono, and exploring specific areas of development and best practice.
The number of pro bono clinics in the LawWorks network has now grown to 280. Last year, they helped 47,941 people, three-quarters of whom received legal advice and a quarter received further information or were referred to other services. Bar Council figures show that one in every four barristers practising in England and Wales did pro bono work last year.
The Law Society will also unveil guidance on pro bono for in-house lawyers.
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Rule of Law Lecture 11/1; 28th Legal Reporting Awards

Breastfeeding in courts; Congratulations to Faisel Sadiq

Date posted: 11 November 2019