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.

24 February 

Criminal justice 

Daily Mail, p2 & online, Daily Telegraph, Metro, Daily Star, Politics Home, Press Association – Chair of the Bar, Amanda Pinto QC, is quoted across the national media in response to the latest criminal justice quarterly statistics from the Ministry of Justice. 
The latest figures prompted the media to report that “109,000 criminals dodged punishment just by saying sorry to their victims.”
Amanda Pinto QC said: “This latest snapshot of our weary criminal justice system is bleak, but sadly, unsurprising. What might appear to be faceless statistics tell a human story of injustices which are being repeated over and over in every part of the country. The evidence shows a decrease in the number of people being charged despite violent crime growing. This translates to fewer criminals being dealt with by our underfunded and under-resourced system. Significant investment across the entire justice system is urgently needed – more police and prison places are not a panacea. This investment will only be worthwhile if the courts as a whole are given the resources to cope with the pressure of investigating and prosecuting the crime we know is there.
“We hope that the Treasury will pay close attention to the recommendations in our submission ahead of the upcoming Budget. Repeatedly said to be an important national asset, it is time our justice system was acknowledged and treated as just that. 

Justice Week 

Legal Futures, Education Today - The public shares a widespread concern that their rights are being eroded and that they need to know more about the law, according to research by the main three lawyer groups published today to mark Justice Week.
People were particularly concerned about attacks of freedom of speech and expression.
The Bar Council, Law Society and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) commissioned Populus to poll 4,182 people and alongside it have launched a campaign featuring a team of ‘superheroes’ to highlight to younger people in particular the vital role of justice and the rule of law in supporting democracy.
The survey found that fewer than one in five people aged 18-24 felt democracy was strengthening at the moment, while a third worried about having less freedom. Among over 55s, this concern rose to 40%.
Many people of all ages feared the environment was inadequately protected, while more than eight out of ten cited a need for environmental protection laws.
Chair of the Bar, Amanda Pinto QC, said: “As this survey shows, young people clearly have an appetite for greater knowledge about how the law can help everyone play their part in society. Justice Week 2020 is about encouraging that awareness.”
Education Today reports that, as part of Justice Week 2020 (24-28 February), Young Citizens is calling all schools in England and Wales to delivery of 'The Big Legal Lesson'. More than 40,000 young people in over 440 schools are already expected to participate in the biggest public legal education event of its kind on the fundamentals of the justice system in England and Wales. 

Television cameras in court 

Sheerness Times Guardian – Kent’s media continues to report on Chair of the Bar, Amanda Pinto QC’s cautious response to plans to televise sentencing in the Crown Courts. Former Canterbury Crown Court judge, Andrew Prentice, also urged caution.  

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The Bar Representation Fee

19 February

Consultation responses

Legal Futures - The Bar Council has launched an outspoken attack on a planned 20% rise in the budget of the Legal Ombudsman (LeO), which would increase it from £12.3 to £14.8m.

The Law Society also opposed the move, saying LeO had not provided “credible evidence” for the increase, which it could not support.

In the consultation on its corporate strategy for 2020-23 and business plan for 2020-21, LeO said it needed the extra money to “radically” improve the time it takes to deal with complaints and “eliminate all unnecessary waiting time”.

The Bar Council said it “strongly” objected to the timing of the proposed increase, because it had, “after lengthy consideration, consultation and approval from the Legal Services Board”, already set its budget for 2020/21.

“A proposal for a 20% increase for the next financial year received after the representative body budgets have been finalised and the practising certificate (PC) fee application has been approved by the LSB is totally unacceptable.”

The Bar Council said the levy on the profession that funds the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC), LeO’s governing body, had already been “factored into” its new PC fee levels.  The Bar Council said there was a risk that a big increase in the OLC levy would be passed onto consumers by barristers charging higher fees, and there should be no “significant” rise before “all other measures” had been explored, including better use of existing staff.

Judicial review

Law Gazette – Jonathan Goldsmith writes for the Gazette:

“The most recent flashpoint was the Court of Appeal’s suspension of the deportation of criminals to the Caribbean. We are told that the prime minister’s chief advisor called the decision ‘a perfect symbol of the British state’s dysfunction’, that there needs to be ‘urgent action on the farce that judicial review has become’, and, in what may send a chill down some spines, that the media and parliamentary response to the case ‘shows they still haven’t understood what the last few years has been about, the country outside London is horrified but rich London is cheering the lawyers’.

“If we are in any further doubt, the Financial Times reported, in relation to the new governmental constitutional review to be overseen by the Cabinet Office headed by Michael Gove, that the same chief advisor ‘wants to get the judges sorted and he’s naturally asked Michael to sort it out. He is trusted to do it’.

“The newly appointed attorney general has already made it clear that the Supreme Court Brexit cases are grounds for parliament to retrieve power ceded to the courts, who are now acting (according to her) as political decision-makers, pronouncing on what the law ought to be and supplanting parliament.

“By way of background, the Bar Council has indicated that applications for judicial review fell by 44% between 2015 and the end of September 2019, doubtless because access was significantly restricted in 2013 over the right to use legal aid, and because of a rise in court fees. The then justice secretary, Chris Grayling, was determined to drive out ‘meritless applications’ which were used as a 'cheap delaying tactic'. So a government assault on judicial review is not new.”

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Bar Council Tweet re: Bar Placement Week

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Bar Council tweet re 17th Bar Council lecture


Date posted: 19 February 2020