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.
Friday 17 September
Reshuffle - Lord Chancellor
BBC News, The Guardian, The Independent, Politics Home, Legal Futures, New Law Journal, Law Society Gazette, Irish Legal News, Scottish Legal News, Business Fast – The BBC, Independent and other media outlets report on the Bar Council’s reaction to the news that Dominic Raab MP has been made the new Lord Chancellor, replacing Robert Buckland MP QC.
The media quote Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar. He said: "Rt Hon Robert Buckland MP QC has been Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice at a time when the justice system has faced unprecedented challenges. The Bar Council has worked closely with him and the Ministry of Justice during his time in office. We are grateful for his willingness, as a former practising barrister, to work collaboratively and listen to the legal professions. We wish him well and look forward to working with his successor Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP, also a qualified lawyer. As we welcome the eighth Justice Secretary in the last 10 years to play this vital role the need for a consistent and strong voice in government for our justice system could not be greater."
Friday 10 September 2021
10,000 Black Interns Scheme
The Times (print and online), BBC Radio Four Today – The Times and Today report on the 10,000 Black Interns scheme, which sees Britain’s biggest and most influential companies give thousands of internships to black students as part of an initiative to improve diversity in business.
GSK, NatWest and Marks & Spencer are among the 700 companies that have signed up to the 10,000 Black Interns scheme, which will give 2,000 black students and recent graduates paid summer internships every year for the next five years.
The media report that the Bar Council, Keating Chambers and four other chambers were teaming up to deliver internships under the scheme at the Bar. Marcus Taverner QC, head of Keating Chambers, is quoted in the media reports.
Today’s Conveyancer – Today’s Conveyancer reports on increased ransomware attacks in the legal sector and the recent Hiscox Cyber Readiness report, which shows that cybercrime gangs are using even more sophisticated ransomware to extort millions from firms across the UK.
Today’s Conveyancer reports that the Bar Council said of the attacks on chambers that the incident, “should act as a wake-up call for everyone to check the security of their information networks, and that their critical business interruption plans are up to date and effective”.
Bar Course Aptitude Test
Law Society Gazette – The Gazette reports that the BSB is considering whether to scrap a student aptitude test that weeds out fewer than one per cent of candidates, after concluding that it is ‘not operating as an effective filter’.
The Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) was introduced in 2013 because the number of students failing the bar training course was deemed too high. Aspiring barristers must pass the test before enrolling on a Bar training course. However, just 89 out of the 12,663 candidates (0.7%) who took – or retook – the assessment between 2013 and 2019 have not yet passed, reports the Gazette.
The Gazette reports that according to Bar Council figures published in April, 3,301 candidates applied for just 246 positions via the pupillage gateway this year. (The figures do not include applications submitted outside the pupillage gateway). The situation has been made worse by Covid-19.
Speaking to the Gazette in May, Chair of the Bar, Derek Sweeting QC, said there are “far too many people doing Bar courses and paying a great deal of money when the attrition rate is so high. I can’t think of many other instances where you would train with such a low prospect of success”.
Friday 27 August 2021
Sky News, Yahoo News, MKFM, Radio Essex, Bro Radio, Radio Exe, Coast FM, Go Q Radio, Polish News, Manx Radio, Three FM, Island FM, Great Yorkshire Radio, News24 (France), The Greek Times, London Modern Chronicle – Sky News interviewed Chair of the Bar, Derek Sweeting QC, on the risks to judges in Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country.
Sky News reports that many judges and prosecutors who convicted Taliban fighters and criminals are now desperately trying to seek asylum elsewhere.
The Chair of the Bar told Sky News that the Bar Council had been contacted by Afghan judges and prosecutors desperate for help.
"We are hearing from some people who are terrified and feel that they've got good reason to be as well," he said.
"These are people who've already put their lives on the line for the last two decades protecting the rule of law and trying to modernise the justice system in the interests of Afghanistan and its society as a whole. It's a real risk and it's disappointing we're not in a position to do more to ensure that they're safe."
"Most government officials are going to be worried. There is evidence in the past, this year for example, judges in particular have already been targeted by Taliban assassins. That's a real reason for thinking they may well have judges in their sights."
The interview with the Chair of the Bar also ran across several radio stations and other international media outlets.
Working Lives survey
The Times (online and print, p.28) – The Times reports on the leaked Working Lives Survey. The article states that bullying and harassment among barristers has almost trebled in the past eight years. The survey also found that most incidents of bullying, harassment or discrimination reported by barristers related to their gender.
Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar Council, is quoting as saying that the organisation was “doing all it can to tackle the problem by providing tools and support for the profession”, adding: “It will take time and will require the whole profession to play a part in eradicating these problems.”
Criminal justice statistics
Law Society Gazette – Further coverage appears of the Bar Council’s response to the latest quarterly criminal justice statistics which show from January to March this year there was a decline in prosecutions but a rise in community resolution orders and other out of court disposals.
Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar, is quoted in the reports. He said: “Greater reliance on community resolutions for more serious offences can send the wrong message to the public and victims of crime – that this is a ‘get out of jail free card’. Whilst out of court disposals can be effective in reducing reoffending for minor offences, they must not be seen simply as an alternative to court, especially for sex offences or other serious crimes. Criminals must be dealt with in a manner that reflects the seriousness of their offending, otherwise, the public will lose confidence in the criminal justice system."