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.
Youth Courts / BSB
Legal Futures - The Bar Council has strongly attacked a plan by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) for the compulsory registration of youth court advocates, the first scheme of its type.
It said the move did not address the “underlying issues of low pay and status” in the youth courts and risked deterring barristers from undertaking the work.
“Though the position varies from court to court, we understand that it is mainly solicitor-advocates rather than barristers that undertake the majority of youth court cases.
“Of these barristers, the majority are junior – typically pupils – and those who have recently completed pupillage. We accept that this is a potential problem.
“We suggest that this is principally due to the low levels of remuneration. Our view is that the pay frequently does not reflect the seriousness of the work nor the skill and experience required to do it well.”
The move is part of the BSB’s plan to improve standards of advocacy within youth courts, which led to a consultation.
The Gazette - The next event in the ‘GREAT’ campaign to promote the UK’s legal services internationally will be hosted by the lord chancellor in London next month, justice minister Lord Keen of Elie QC has told the Gazette. Keen, advocate general for Scotland and Ministry of Justice spokesperson in the Lords, attended last week’s annual conference of the International Bar Association in Sydney, Australia, to promote UK jurisdictions in the face of mounting international competition.
He told the Gazette the campaign would succeed only with the ‘co-operation and considerable experience of the professional bodies such as the Law Society and Bar Council’, as well as strong local law societies including the City of London Law Society.
CBA - Equality & Diversity
Legal Futures, The Gazette - “Concerned words” about diversity and social mobility need to be turned into action through changes to the way the criminal courts operate if junior barristers are to be retained, the Criminal Bar Association has warned.
The association’s vice-chair, Chris Henley QC, said it had recently received “a surge” of complaints of bad listing practices.
Examples he cited included 25 cases all being listed at 10am; a two-hour part-heard multi-handed sentence hearing listed at 9.15am behind a part-heard trial – with the court cells not even being open until 9.30am – which wasn’t reached until mid-afternoon; and three different trials listed in the same court on the same day.
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Wellbeing at the Bar
AllAboutLaw – AllAboutLaw reports that the Bar Council has proposed the introduction of a new measure to recognise efforts across the Bar in sustaining good mental health.
To mark the first anniversary of the Wellbeing at the Bar website, the Bar Council will introduce a Certificate of Recognition to recognise efforts made to promote wellbeing across the Bar. In line with the theme of One Bar at this year’s Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference, everyone - including chambers, Specialist Bar Associations, Circuits, Inns and organisations that employ barristers - will be able to apply. The Certificate will act as a beacon of good wellbeing practice at the Bar for those who receive it.
With over 100,000 hits in less than a year since its launch, the Wellbeing at the Bar (WATB) website, set up to provide wellbeing and mental health support tools for barristers and chambers, has been a resounding success for the profession.
Flexible Operating Hours
Public Law Today – Further coverage appears of the news that HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has put back the launch of the Flexible Operating Hours pilots until February next year.
Andrew Langdon QC, Chair of the Bar, said: “Whilst plans for flexible courts have not been dropped, it is encouraging to see HMCTS not only take on board the Bar Council’s concerns about the plans, which include the impact they will have on barristers with child and other care responsibilities, but they also commit to ensuring robust evaluation measures are in place before proceeding with the pilot.
“Past experience shows that rushing into decisions can backfire on the government, employment tribunal fees and the impact of LASPO on vulnerable people being just two examples. We will continue to talk with HMCTS, who are in listening mode, on this issue.”
Press Association – PA reports that Andrew Langdon QC, Chair of the Bar, has said society has much to lose if "face-to-face court contact" is lost and replaced by a "second-best form of remote justice".
The Chair outlined his fears in Counsel magazine about "open justice" being undermined. In every society, he says, justice has always been dispensed at a "particular place", but a planned new civil Online Solutions Court is a sign of change.
"Most cultures and most jurisdictions have made it a prominent building," he said. "A back office, or a pop-up court, lacks the majesty or the solemnity befitting the purpose.”
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