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.

27 March 

Courts, the Bar & Covid-19

The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Times x 2, The News (Portsmouth) PA News Wire x 7, manchestereveningnews.co.uk, derbytelegraph.co.uk, hulldailymail.co.uk x 2, legaltechnology.com, Legal Futures, Legal Cheek, Impartial Reporter, Prestwich and Whitefield Guide, Epping Forest Guardian, Barhead News, Asian Image, More.TalkTalk, Legal Futures, Politics Home x 4, Evesham Journal, Free Press Series, South Wales Guardian, Border Telegraph, Romsey Advertiser, Cotswolds Journal, Borehamwood Times, Wimbledon Guardian, Times Series, ThisisMoney, Yahoo News, Bournemouth Echo, Belfast Telegraph, Press and Journal, Keighley News, Evening Times, New Law Journal, Law Society Gazette, Legal Futures, Bolton News, Tewksbury Magazine, Local Government Lawyer; Basildon Standard, Whitehaven News, Lex100, Nottingham Post, Litigation Futures, New Law Journal, Yorkshire Post

The Bar Council’s work in relation to Covid-19 and its impact on the Bar and court hearings is covered widely across a range of media, including national, local and legal trade press.

Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, is quoted in the media on issues the Bar Council has lobbied on for the profession and chambers, including: barristers being given ‘key worker’ status, about attending court and remote hearings, financial relief for barristers through VAT deferred payments and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme, and the Bar Council’s call on the Chancellor to make his package of support for the self-employed fit for the Bar. There’s also widespread coverage of the Bar Council’s call, from last week, for jury trials to be halted.

BAR COUNCIL TWEETS@thebarcouncil 

Supporting the Young Bar during COVID

20 March 

Courts & COVID-19  

Evening Standard (print and online), LBC (online), CityAM (print and online), The Daily Telegraph (print and online), The Times (print and online), The Mirror (online), Express & Star (print, p2), MSN.com, Thisismoney, iNews, Asian Image, Law Gazette, Legal Cheek, Legal Futures, Law360, Yahoo News, The National, Gloucestershire Live, Nottingham Post, Portsmouth News, Berkshire Live, Leeds Live, Birmingham Mail (print), MyLondon.News + 30 more local media outlets
 

Further reports of Bar Council’s regular statements and messages to the profession on how COVID-19 impacts the Bar. 
 
The Bar Council, which represents around 17,000 barristers in England and Wales, has called for a 30-day suspension of all civil, family and criminal hearings where proceedings are conducted in person. However, it said the proposed suspension would not apply to the "very exceptional circumstances" where a video link or phone hearing is unable to take place. 
 
Lord Burnett later said in a statement that “the operation of the courts has been under constant review” and that steps were being taken to continue most hearings as normal online, by phone or by video-link.
 
However, he added: “Given the risks of a trial not being able to complete, I have decided that no new trial should start in the Crown Court unless it is expected to last for three days or less. Trials currently underway will generally proceed in the hope that they can be completed.”
 
The announcement came after pressure mounted on the Government to make clear its strategy for courts, amid growing concerns about the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on court business.
 
Chair, Amanda Pinto QC, said in her next message to the Bar: "Nor do we consider that short jury trials present less of a risk to the health of those involved than longer ones - quite the opposite."
 
The Bar Council said all proceedings conducted in person, and particularly jury trials, are inconsistent with the government’s current health advice. However, it expressed concerns about the capacity of video links to meet increased demand if they are used more extensively for evidence.
 
Pinto said the Bar Council is pressing the government to include the bar in any financial support package and is exploring tax and rent breaks.
 
Meanwhile, lawyers are calling for them to be granted “key worker” status as schools shut down but courts are set to remain open. The Bar Council said its chairwoman, Amanda Pinto QC, has been in direct contact with Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC, calling for barristers to be classified as “key workers” in order to keep justice system running. 

BAR COUNCIL TWEETS@thebarcouncil 

#IamTheBar

#BarTalk on #COVID19

18 March 

Courts & COVID-19 

BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, BBC News, Sky News, The Times, Independent (x2), ITV, The Telegraph, DailyMail (print x2 and online), The Guardian (print and online), Financial Times, Evening Standard, Mirror Online, Metro, CityAM (print and online x2), Law Gazette, PA Media, Bristol Post, Dundee Messenger, Penarth Times, Halstead Gazette, Hillingdon Times + more 
 
National and local media report on the Bar Council’s response to the Ministry of Justice’s decision to keep courts in England and Wales operating normally. 
 
On the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning, Amanda Pinto QC, spoke about the current situation in courts and the impact of COVID-19, particularly on jury trials.
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said: “We are calling for the Ministry of Justice to put an urgent halt to jury trials for the time being. Barristers up and down the country are telling us that jurors are having to drop out of cases because they are self-isolating or, worse, coming to court when they should not, and thereby putting everyone’s health at risk. Being in a jury trial should not be a game of Russian Roulette with the participants’ health. All those involved in court proceedings, be they barristers, witnesses, defendants, jurors or members of the public (let alone court staff and judges), should not be expected to attend court, whilst the rest of the country is very strongly urged to work from home and to avoid ‘non-essential contact’ and ‘confined spaces’. 
 
“The Bar Council believes that it is vital that the justice system functions as far as possible but putting people’s health - and in some cases lives - at risk in our courts when this is avoidable, must stop immediately. We know there are plans to use more video and phone technology for court hearings whilst the coronavirus persists, but we must be realistic; requiring groups of strangers to gather closely together is quite contrary to current government advice. We urge the Ministry of Justice to adapt quickly to this rapidly changing environment, by continuing proceedings where possible, but without juries and by not requiring judges, barristers and others to attend hearings in person.” 

Court facilities   

The Sun – The Sun reports an exclusive story on the lack of hand washing facilities in court and the impact it could have in relation to the coronavirus.  
 
The Bar Council revealed things are so bad lawyers cannot even wash their hands in court, and accused the Government of failing to provide the basic requirements needed to fight the disease.
 
Chair Amanda Pinto QC said: “Barristers are telling us that they can’t even follow the NHS’s hand washing advice sent to courts across the nation because of a lack of soap, broken basins and unusable bathrooms in court buildings.
 
“The Chancellor’s first budget was an opportunity for this Government to demonstrate its genuine commitment to law and order by restoring confidence in the justice system, so that it can withstand not only a dangerous virus, but operate effectively long-term."
 
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Date posted: 27 March 2020