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.

25 September 2020 

Barrister mistaken for defendant 

Daily Mail, Sky News, Daily Express, The Times, The Guardian, The i Paper, Metro, Daily Mirror, PA Media, The Times Scotland, Scottish Daily Mail, Scottish Daily Express, Yahoo News, Capital FM, Yorkshire Post, Hampshire Chronicle, News Shopper, Wiltshire & Gloucestershire Standard, Cumnock Chronicle, Local Berkshire, The Westmorland Gazette, Glasgow Times, Gazette Series, Bridgwater Mercury, Basingstoke Gazette, Essex Live, Kingdom FM, Sunshine Radio, Law Society Gazette, plus 144 other media outlets – 
 
Print, radio and online media, including national media, report that Kevin Sadler, the acting chief executive of HM Courts and Tribunals Service, has condemned the “totally unacceptable behaviour” and promised to investigate the complaint made by a black barrister, Alexandra Wilson, who specialises in criminal and family cases, after she was mistaken for a defendant three times in one day at court.
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, is quoted across all media. She called the incident “appalling”. She said: “With regret, I fear Alexandra’s experience is not a one-off. Many barristers have to put up with the prejudiced assumptions of others – Alexandra has done so with exemplary grace and patience. I am speaking directly with HMCTS, the senior judiciary and the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] immediately, urging more to be done to stamp out this behaviour.
 
“The barristers’ profession is always striving to be more representative of the society it serves. There is more to do to change the perception of the bar, but that is no excuse for the kind of attitudes and remarks described. We are not all white, middle-class men.”

Breaking international law 

Daily Express X 2, Daily Mail, Vanity Fair, The Independent, Daily Mirror, Evening Standard, LBC, Yahoo News, Pop Times, PA Media, Daily Record, Herald Scotland, Bucks Free Press, Manchester Evening News, MSN – The media reports that barrister Amal Clooney has said she is resigning as the UK’s special envoy on media freedom over the Government’s “lamentable” suggestion it could violate international law over the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
 
In her resignation letter, Clooney said: “As the President (Chair) of the Bar Council of England and Wales has affirmed, undermining the rule of law that ‘this country is built on … will fatally puncture people’s faith in our justice system”.
 
Separately, the Daily Express also reports that former Prime Minister, Theresa May, has also criticised the Government’s decision to break international law if needs be over the Withdrawal Agreement. 
 
She said: “As the Law Society and the Bar Council have said, these provisions enable UK minister to derogate from the obligations of the United Kingdom under international law in broad and comprehensive terms and prohibit public bodies from compliance with such obligations.” 

Prosecutions

The Daily Telegraph – The Telegraph reports that “thousands of thugs, thieves and drug offenders” have been let off prosecutions by the police during the coronavirus pandemic to ease the pressure on the court system, an investigation by The Telegraph has found.
 
Police have dropped prosecutions in at least 6,000 cases and instead applied out-of-court measures such as community resolutions which do not result in a criminal record.
 
The number of cases where offenders were dealt with through community resolutions rose by 50 per cent in lockdown, from 10,700 in April and May last year to more than 16,000 for the same two months this year.
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, is quoted in the article. She said: “It is extremely telling of the Government’s priorities that the police have been finding ways tactically to avoid exacerbating the dire state of the justice system, while the Government refuses to invest to address the underlying problem and support public safety long-term. 
 
“The Government must press forward to reduce the backlog through greater use of the existing court estate, more Nightingale Courts, greater use of better technology and significant staff recruitment, so that the public is safe and faith in justice is restored.”

Judicial diversity

Asian Image, Swanage and Wareham Voice, Epping Forest Guardian, Prestwich and Whitefield Guide, The Scottish Farmer, Northern Farmer, Impartial Reporter, Barhead News – Further media coverage appears of the news that people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are less likely to be successful when applying to become a judge, and only 9% are senior barristers, official figures show.
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, is quoted across all media channels. She said the industry must “have a far better reflection of society” so members of the public can be confident in the legal representation they receive.
 
She added: “I feel extremely strongly that the Bar must diversify. We must reflect the society that we serve.

Annual Bar Conference

Politics Home – Politics Home reports that the line-up and programme for the Bar Council’s Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference 2020 has just been announced, entitled ‘Forward thinking: Bar of the Future’.

Turkey

Lawyer Monthly – A group of European law societies penned an open letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arguing for the release of 55 legal professionals recently detained in Ankara.
 
The lawyers in question were arrested during dawn raids on 11 September, in which their offices were searched and they were subjected to questioning in relation to their professional activities.
 
These actions by Turkish authorities ran contrary to United Nations principles, according to the letter signed by Lawyers for Lawyers, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, the Law Society of England and Wales, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, the Bar Council of England and Wales and the German Bar Association.

BAR COUNCIL TWEETS 

Pupillage Fair 2020

Appalling experience

18 September 2020

‘I am the Bar’ social mobility campaign

New Law Journal, Politics Home, Shropshire Star – The media reports that 10 more barristers have signed up to support the Bar Council’s #IAmTheBar campaign as social mobility advocates. 
 
All the advocates attended state schools and non-Oxbridge universities, and have faced a range of challenges on their journey to the Bar. They aim to use the stories of their own careers to dispel the belief that a background of privilege is required for the Bar. Their stories will be shared on Twitter this week.
 
The Bar Council has also launched a Leadership Programme, offering 36 barristers with between seven and 15 years of practice opportunities to network and gain skills in leadership.
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, said: “Contrary to popular belief, members of the Bar come from all walks of life. By sharing their own experiences, the impressive #IamTheBar social mobility advocates show what can be achieved, no matter what your background. The Leadership Programme provides a practical way for barristers who don’t currently see themselves reflected in leadership positions to change that in future.” 

Judicial diversity 

PA Media, Yahoo News, MSN, Shropshire Star, Surrey Comet, Express and Star, Herald Scotland, Stourbridge News, New Law Journal, Bristol Post, Stoke Sentinel, Belfast Telegraph, The Northern Echo, Dudley News, ThisIsLocalLondon, Halesowen News, News Shopper, ThisIsMoney, Oxford Mail, Milford Mercury, Somerset County Gazette, News and Star, Bridport News, Evening Telegraph, Alloa Advertiser, ThisIsWestCountry, ThisIsOxfordshire, Daily Echo, Richmond & Twickenham Times + 190 other media outlets – There is widespread media coverage of the news that people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are less likely to be successful when applying to become a judge, and only 9% are senior barristers, official figures show.
 
A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) report said BAME people are “over-represented in applications for judicial appointment” but are “less likely to be successful”. Women also remain under-represented in the judiciary, particularly in courts, according to the findings.
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, is quoted across all media channels. She said the industry must “have a far better reflection of society” so members of the public can be confident in the legal representation they receive.
 
She added: “I feel extremely strongly that the Bar must diversify. We must reflect the society that we serve.
 
“We aren’t a niche, out-of-touch profession, we’ve got to be a profession that is open to anybody that is good enough and has the desire, and frankly the staying power, to make a career.
 
“Without diversifying, the industry is missing out on a “huge amount of talent”, she warned, adding: I absolutely believe that we’ve got to change the types of people that come in, that’s not just privileged people, they’ve got to be people from all sorts of walks of life with all sorts of backgrounds.” 

Bar Council AGM  

The Observer (front page), Daily Mail, Sky News x 2, The Guardian (print and online) x 2, The Times, The Independent (print and online), Yahoo News, MSN, Belfast Telegraph, Business Telegraph, Business Fast, Capital FM, Manx Radio, Love Sport Radio, The News - The media reports that the Attorney General was questioned by barristers at the weekend’s Bar Council meeting and AGM over their concerns about the government’s intention to break international law with its Internal Market Bill. 
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, discussed the issue on Sky News and was quoted in other media. She says: “It should not need to be said that this country is built on, and subject to, the rule of law.
 
“Undermining this vital principle will fatally puncture people’s faith in our justice system, both at home and internationally. Someone committing a crime in a ‘specific and limited way’ nonetheless commits a crime and an admitted breach of international law in a ‘specific and limited way’ is nonetheless a breach.” 

Lord Chancellor 

The Guardian – The Guardian reports that the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, is facing calls to resign over government plans to override international law after another senior law officer, Lord Keen, quit rather than continue to support the policy.
 
Downing Street confirmed Keen’s departure as advocate general for Scotland. In his resignation letter, he said he “found it increasingly difficult to reconcile what I consider to be my obligations as a law officer with your policy intentions”.
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, said: “No government should put before parliament a bill that deliberately encourages the legislature to breach international law. This is especially so where neither the circumstances nor the signatories have changed from when the government originally signed the treaty a few months ago.
 
“The role of each law officer is to uphold and defend the rule of law, even when it is unpopular with the government.” 

Sentencing 

Sky News, The Guardian (print and online), New Law Journal – Media coverage of the Government’s new sentencing plans appear in the media. Many of the proposals include tougher sentences for certain offences. 
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, appeared on Sky News and in other media. She said the move was “not the answer to restoring the public’s trust in the justice system”.
 
“If the government truly is the party of law and order, it must invest in the whole criminal justice system. Not just picking parts and ignoring others,” she said. “Simply investing in the beginning (police numbers) and the end (longer sentences) of criminal justice will not address the problem.
 
She said significant cuts to the justice budget over the years caused a large backlog of cases, long before Covid-19. “As a result, witnesses, victims and defendants now have to wait years before their case gets to court. What message does that give the British public? Investment in the entire system, including the court process, is now critical.”

Pupillages 

Legal Futures - Commercial set, Keating Chambers has put up £20,000 to fund a pupillage that a criminal set has had to withdraw because of the impact of Covid-19. The move has been hailed by the Bar Council and barristers as emblematic of the spirit of the Bar while pointing out that it would not have been necessary had the government provided proper support during the pandemic.
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, said: “Keating Chambers’ outstandingly generous offer to fund a pupillage is the mark of a truly unified and supportive profession where those in more robust practice areas are prepared to support the future of another part of the Bar which is struggling to survive, let alone expand. What an example of solidarity.
 
“The wider private Bar cannot always be expected to bail out a vital public service that should be properly funded by government.”

BAR COUNCIL TWEETS 

The Rule of Law

10 New Social Mobility Advocates

 

11 September 2020

“Activist lawyers” 

Daily Mail, Daily Mail, Daily Mail, Daily Mail, Daily Mail, PA Media, The i, Daily Mirror, Yahoo News, MSN, Shropshire Star, iNews, Surrey Comet, Bournemouth Echo, Newschain, Thurrock Gazette, Asian Image, Free Press Series, Bracknell News, Harwich and Manning Tree Standard, Largs and Millport News, The Argus, Whitehaven News, The Westmorland Gazette, Prestwich and Whitefield Guide, Epping Forest Guardian, Swanage and Wareham Voice, MSN, Order Order, Legal Cheek, The London Economic, News 24 (France), Express and Star, Evening Express, Boarder Counties Advertiser, Gazette News, Irish News + 220-plus other media outlets – Further media coverage appears of the Home Secretary Priti Patel’s continued reference to “activist lawyers” preventing the Government from removing migrants. 
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, is quoted in five separate articles in the Daily Mail and across all other media outlets. She said that lawyers should not be political targets for simply doing their jobs.
 
The Home Secretary’s latest comments come a week after the Home Office was forced to abandon using a video which accused “activist lawyers” representing migrants of trying to disrupt the asylum system. 

International law 

The Guardian (print and online), PA Media, MSN, Yahoo, The Times, Asian News Day – The media reports on the government’s Internal Market Bill, which may lead to a breach of international law. 
 
The media reports on the concerns raised by many in the legal sector about the government’s intention to break international law. 
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, is quoted. She says: “It should not need to be said that this country is built on, and subject to, the rule of law.
 
“Undermining this vital principle will fatally puncture people’s faith in our justice system, both at home and internationally. Someone committing a crime in a ‘specific and limited way’ nonetheless commits a crime and an admitted breach of international law in a ‘specific and limited way’ is nonetheless a breach.”
 
The Times reports that the Attorney General, Suella Braverman, is likely to get a “rough ride” over the government’s bill when she chairs the meeting of the Bar Council on Saturday.

Judicial independence

The Guardian (print and online), The Times, MSN - A crown court judge who twice refused to extend custody time limits for defendants and criticised government spending on criminal justice during the pandemic claims he has been blocked from hearing a similar case.
 
HHJ Raynor, who sits at Woolwich Crown Court, has complained to the senior judiciary that he has been subjected to “improper and undue influence”.
 
In the past month Raynor has twice refused to extend the time a defendant can be kept behind bars, and he blamed the Ministry of Justice for failing to provide sufficient emergency courts to deal with the growing backlog of criminal trials.
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, is quoted in media reports. She said: “An independent judiciary is an essential pillar of our democracy. It is vital that no judge is ever subject to political or any other pressure to take a particular decision, or there is the appearance of such pressure. That is especially so when someone’s liberty is at stake. We would not accept it in another jurisdiction, and it should never be tolerated here.” 

Custody time limit extension 

Society of Editors, Law Society Gazette,  – Media coverage emerges of the legal sector’s response to the temporary extension of custody time limits from 182 days to 238 days, aimed at reducing the backlog of cases. 
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, called on the Ministry Justice to increase investment in the criminal justice system through the opening of additional courts allowing more hearings to take place.
 
She said: “We understand the current issue about ensuring that potentially dangerous criminals are not released because their trial has been very delayed due to the existing backlog of trials exacerbated by Covid-19.
 
“However, we are very concerned that this 25% increase in the lawful detention of a potentially innocent person because there aren’t enough courts available to hear their trial does not become a license to push off cases for longer than absolutely necessary. The government must increase sustained investment in the criminal justice system to add more court rooms urgently, especially those capable of safely hearing cases with many defendants.” 

Criminal courts recovery plan 

Politics Home – Politics Home reports on the Bar Council’s response to the government’s criminal courts recovery plan. 
 
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, said: “This recovery plan is welcome but long overdue. The Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice have taken on board the many concerns expressed by the Bar Council and others involved in the criminal justice system when shaping it.
 
"We are pleased that acknowledgement that greater use of the existing court estate, more Nightingale Courts, greater use of better technology and significant staff recruitment are all vital to recovery. 
 
"We continue to watch cautiously to see whether extending operating hours has the desired effect on improving case volumes without impinging on court users including legal professionals.”

BAR COUNCIL TWEETS 

Independent Judiciary is a pillar of decocracy

The Rule of Law

BAR COUNCIL TWEETS 

Previous Bar Council News Updates 

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Date posted: 18 September 2020