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.

17 July 

Labour Party 

Press Association, Shropshire Star The Guardian and other media outlets – The media reports that the Labour Party’s governing body, the NEC, has been urged to support a motion which would auto-exclude members where there is “irrefutable evidence” accusing them of racism and other forms of discrimination.
 
The media report that the NEC has passed a motion to establish an “independent process to deal with disciplinary matters involving all forms of racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia or transphobia. This is to also include the process for overseeing auto exclusion of members and any subsequent member appeals.
 
“We (NEC) will invite the Bar Council, or another appropriate body, to appoint a person wholly independent from the Labour Party to devise the detail of this scheme, consult with Jewish and other communities and report back to the NEC.”

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Why become a barrister? - blog

12 July 

125 years of the Bar Council 

The Times (print and online), Law Society Gazette, The Barrister – The legal media reports on the Bar Council’s 125 years anniversary event, which took place on Tuesday. 
 
The Gazette focuses its reporting on the event’s keynote speaker, Lady Justice Hallett, Vice President of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division, who warned that London’s overseas competitors are ready to exploit the impact of public funding cuts which have sullied the reputation of England and Wales as a pre-eminent global jurisdiction.
 
Lady Justice Hallett also urged lawyers to defend both their professional independence and the public interest. She also condemned repeated media attacks on the profession, warning that their ‘drip-drip’ effect on public confidence erodes trust in the legal system.
 
The Times chose to use the celebrations to ask: “Is the profession thriving or flailing?” looking at the current state of different parts of the Bar. 
 
The Times reports that Chair of the Bar, Richard Atkins, QC said: “We have been pushing the ‘one Bar’ message for a long time,” and that he points out that all areas of the Bar are open to fluctuations in “supply and demand” and that the profession has grown consistently even after its monopoly on higher court advocacy was swept away by the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990.
 
The article also quotes Chris Henley QC, Chair of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), who said: “The Bar Council fights the corner of the publicly funded Bar in different ways to the CBA, but no less vigorously.” 
 
The Times also gives its readers a history of the Legal Services Act in the article.  

Diversity in the judiciary 

The Times – The Times reports on yesterday’s publication of judiciary’s diversity statistics. The Times reports that: “More than half of younger judges are now women, as efforts to improve gender diversity on the bench appear to have paid off. The number of female court judges increased across all levels last year by three per cent to nearly a third of the total. However, the proportion of female tribunal judges remained unchanged at 46 per cent.”
 
The Times adds: “Despite the increasing presence of women on the bench in England and Wales, senior judges and justice ministers will be disappointed that the number of judges from ethnic minority backgrounds has remained flat over the past 12 months.
 
“The proportion of ethnicity minority court judges remained seven per cent, while the proportion of non-white tribunal judges was unchanged at 17 per cent. Figures from the latest national census in 2011 showed that 14 per cent of the population in England and Wales was of non-white or mixed ethnicity.”

BAR COUNCIL TWEETS @thebarcouncil

#125years of the Bar council & 100 years of women in law!

10 July 

Social mobility 

Politics Home – Politics Home publishes the new Bar Council video for its #IAmTheBar social mobility campaign to mark the start of the Bar Council’s social mobility initiative Bar Placement Week. The video features some of the 2018 Social Mobility Advocates and some of the new 2019 joiners, who will be officially announced later in the year.  

Diversity data 

Legal Futures, Law Society Gazette – The legal media reports that the Legal Services Board (LSB) has approved a new rule requiring chambers to include sexual orientation and religion in the diversity data they publish on their websites, whether or not all of their barristers agree.
 
The Bar Standards Board (BSB), which applied for the rule change with the support of the Bar Council, said the existing rule meant that “almost none” of the summaries produced by chambers covered sexual orientation and religion or belief. 

Pride 

Legal Cheek – Legal Cheek reports that lawyers were among the tens of thousands to take to the streets of London at the weekend to march for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender plus (LGBT+) rights at this year’s Pride parade.
 
Legal Cheek reports that the Chair of the Bar Council’s Young Barristers’ Committee, Athena Markides, joined Bar Council Treasurer Grant Warnsby under the banner ‘All are equal under the law’ on the march. 

Women in law 

Law Society Gazette - Further reports emerge of the news that the Bar Council, Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) and Law Society have launched a Women in Law pledge to help support and progress gender equality within the legal profession.

BAR COUNCIL TWEETS @thebarcouncil

#IAmThe Bar official video launch

1 July 

Recorders 

The Guardian, Yahoo News, Business Fast – The Guardian and other media outlets reports that working days for recorders have been slashed and requests are being made for them to sit on the bench at impossibly short notice, according to the Criminal Bar Association (CBA).
 
The decline in sitting days for recorders is imposing additional strains on full-time, crown court judges, says the CBA. Some recorders have even received warning notices that if they do not fulfil their required annual quota of at least 15 days they may no longer be eligible to serve.
 
Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar Council’s Legal Services Committee and Vice-Chair Elect of the Bar, is quoted in the articles. He says: “The reduction in crown court cases ought to be leading to reduced waiting times and an improvement in efficiency but rather than taking the fall in cases as an opportunity to improve the system, the concern is that it’s being used as an opportunity to cut costs by reducing sitting days.
 
“Courtrooms with available judges should be dealing with cases that are ready for trial, not standing empty. There’s a lot of coxing and boxing with recorders being asked to sit urgently at short notice. It’s something of a zero-hours approach.”
 
In 2018 there was a 16% decrease in new crown court trials compared to the previous year. Last week, however, the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, expressed concern about “woefully low” rates for solving crimes, with courts “emptying” despite some offences rising. 

Women in law 

New Law Journal - Further reports emerge of the news that the Bar Council, Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) and Law Society have launched a Women in Law pledge to help support and progress gender equality within the legal profession. 

Legal Services Board 

Times Online (The Brief) – The Times reports that staffing costs at the regulator of lawyers in England and Wales, the Legal Services Board (LSB), have risen by an “inflation-busting” seven per cent over the past year.
 
The Times reports that when staff costs alone are analysed, LSB officials acknowledged that the increase was even sharper, rising by more than eight per cent. Inflation is running at between 1.8 and 2.1 per cent.
 
The Times points out that the Law Society paid 83 per cent of the LSB’s funding. The Bar Council picked up nine per cent of the bill and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives paid four per cent. The remaining seven organisations covered by the legislation, including the Council for Licensed Conveyancers and the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, also paid four per cent.

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BC Accessibility Self-Audit Tool for chambers

Drop-in session with Chair of the bar, Richard Atkins QC

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Members
Date posted: 10 July 2019