The South Eastern Circuit
Leader's Update

New Silks
At the time of writing the website has crashed and so I am not able to email anyone or congratulate them personally.  But for all those of you who have succeeded I hope your delight is not diminished by not being able to celebrate with friends and colleagues in the pubs and wine bars.  To any who have not made it this time, I wish you well for the next attempt.  

Almost there…
Some of you may be tidying up loose ends at work next week. Perhaps a few will have juries out, or cases perhaps adjourned until January 4th as test results for Judges, staff, advocates and others continue to come back positive.  Others will call a halt tomorrow.  

We can hope that the next three weeks provides some respite from the misery and stress of 2020, and from so much angry noise. That we are able to strike the right balance in seeing friends and family, largely outdoors of course - perhaps the reduced numbers in each household mean fewer fights over who is left to eat the “strawberry centre” chocolates?  Above all that you get that perfect blend of rest and fun that leaves you equipped for the last – allow me the hope - few bumpy months of our “Covid-and-the-Courts” saga.  

Yesterday I received my first ever free flu jab.  The nurse kindly told me I am in the ninth (last) wave of the roll-out for a Covid vaccine.  No news as to when, but I suspect not until well into next year.  It reinforced in my mind the need for us to be careful at court, wear masks everywhere and maintain distance.  Please politely encourage colleagues to “mask up” and do not be afraid to ask court staff to enforce the regulations.  Most of us cannot afford to get sick and not work.  We need the courts to keep running.  We are fortunate that the justice system has kept going as much as it has during the second lockdown and into tier 3.  We must all do our bit to make sure we do not derail these efforts.

I know you will have been keeping an eye on each other and your staff, but for anyone in your set who might need a financial helping hand, 
do not forget the BBA fund.

Covid Operating Hours?
You can read the 
Bar Council’s response to the COHs consultation here. All Circuit Leaders contributed.  I do not imagine we will have a decision in principle until the New Year.  But even if HMG gives this project the green light, ultimately the decision whether or not to run a split shift COH court will be for each Resident Judge.  I imagine local resources, backlogs and case mix will play important roles in decision making.  As I understand matters, HMCTS will not try and run the scheme where they have insufficient staff.

Nightingale Courts and Recovery Planning:
This project will remain a work in progress.  There are three more family courts at Petty France.  On Monday it was announced that two Crown Court rooms at the Royal Courts of Justice will sit from the week beginning 11 January. Your clerks may get calls from Inner London Crown Court.  HMCTS published its “Overview of HMCTS Recovery for Civil and Family Courts and Tribunals 
COVID-19: Overview of HMCTS Recovery for Civil and Family Courts and Tribunals (  If the urge takes you, you can find the latest Management Information on backlog etc here:  HMCTS weekly management information during coronavirus - March to November 2020 - GOV.UK (
But there will be time enough in the New Year for us to return to the continued problems in the justice system, the funding crisis, the backlog, shortages of staff and (in some jurisdictions) Judges.  You know the problems; each of you will have your ideas about solutions.  Please do not assume that we already have the answers – do not be shy about writing to your SBA, the Circuit or the Bar Council.  There are no restrictions on sitting days in this financial year.  We hope that this remains the position next year (April 2021 - March 2022).  But as the vaccine takes effect there is a likelihood that courts will aim to bring forward some 2022 cases into 2021.  Some of you have reported evidence of this concertina effect already.  This will create a capacity challenge for the Bar generally and for each of us individually as cases move, causing immense professional problems.  But ultimately the public needs cases tried as promptly as possible.  And so while it may be hard next year, I would rather be struggling to juggle too much work than be sitting around with nothing to do.

Some Sad News:

The Sussex Bar Mess is sad to report the death of John Collins, affectionately known as JC, the founder and Head of Westgate Chambers. JC had a successful practice, based upon a natural charm, in the 70s and 80s before deciding to set up a new Chambers in Lewes in 1987.  At the time, stand-alone chambers outside London were rare. 

JC fostered good relations with local solicitors with an innovative open approach which was frowned upon by some at the time, but has since become the normal way of practice: barristers breaking down the traditional barriers between the two branches of the profession with a willingness to have conferences in solicitors’ offices and social contact.

JC’s open recruitment policy gave opportunities to many from backgrounds more diverse than the then normal. A number of his recruits went on to become Judges and Silks, opportunities they might not otherwise have had. Having built up a thriving common-law set, JC passed the day-to-day management over, but kept a keen interest in his set and its members. He leaves behind a well-established busy set that grew from a handful of members at the start to over 50 practitioners.

The stresses and strains of this year have been like no other and our families have endured all this alongside us.  Those with children at home may be surprised about the impact our anxieties have had on them compounding their own worries about their futures.  

Am I alone in hoping that 2021 proves to be a little boring and uneventful?  Perhaps that is a little ambitious, and we can just wistfully dream of a quiet three months, ideally with some snow at the weekends and no lorries backed up in Kent and outside Calais.  Vaccines will be rolled out without a hitch, confidence will return, those who have earned and saved during 2020 will splurge their money on the economy.  Those who have not worked enough will be busy and earning and beginning to get themselves back on their feet.  This will all be followed by a glorious spring and resplendent summer.  There will be just the right amount of work, not too much, not too little.  We may occasionally even be able to take a planned holiday… is this too much to ask for?
Thank you for all your hard work and support over the year.  Thanks in particular to Aaron and Harriet, who do so much to keep the wheels turning and provide us with such great support – we are so lucky to have them.  It has been an honour to serve as your Leader and I am delighted that we are in such good hands as Christine takes over in January.  I hope for her, for all our sakes, that Circuit business can return rapidly to business as usual: education and training and social events in person, the things that are so vital to build and maintain the fabric and culture of the Bar.
I wish you joy with (some) friends and family over the coming weeks. 


Mark Fenhalls QC
Leader of the South Eastern Circuit


The 'Circuiteer' - Winter Edition 2020:

The Barristers' Benevolent Association:

The four Inns, together with the Barristers’ Benevolent Association, have launched a Covid-19 fund to give emergency financial assistance where it is urgently needed at the Bar. This fund will help those members of the Bar who are unable to support themselves and their families during these difficult times.

Their aim is to make emergency grants to barristers who are suffering financial hardship as a result of C19 impeding their ability to work as a barrister, as fairly, swiftly and simply as possible.

For details visit their website and complete the short Covid19 application form and email it to
Website: Email: or
Telephone: 07887 841302 and 07375 557326
The BBA exist to support, help and comfort those members of the Bar in England and Wales and their families and dependents who are in need, distress or difficulties. 

Law Care - Life in the Law research:
Law Care have launched a ground breaking research study, ‘Life in the Law’ and have asked  the membership for assistance.  

Law Care want to encourage as many people working in the legal profession, those in training, legally qualified and support staff, to take part, as the results of this study will pave the way for determining what we can do as a profession to improve the support available to people working in the legal profession by enhancing our understanding of the issues that affect mental health and wellbeing. The data will help us all drive long lasting cultural change in legal workplaces to benefit both the present and future generation of lawyers and staff. Law Care expect the results to also form the basis of an academic paper.
Your support in helping to promote the study would be really appreciated. 
To give you an overview of the study, please see the following links, a FAQ document will be uploaded and circulated once prepared.  

Updated Snaresbrook Crown Court S28 Protocol - November:
Accessed here

PCU WIFI in HMCTS Buildings:
PCU WiFi is changing and will no longer be available in HMCTS buildings from 15th January 2021. HMCTS are upgrading the authentication service which will provide:

  • Secure form of authentication
  • No need for password renewal (currently every 90 days)
  • No need to re-authenticate when moving between sites
  • Further alignment to best practice.

All PCU WiFi users will need to register for a GovWiFi account before 15th January 2021.

Simply text ‘Go’ to 07537417417 to get connected.

This is a one-time registration. You will then be able to connect wherever GovWiFi is available.

Further information on how to connect and manage your installation is available at the GovWiFi website.

Digital forensic material - an academic study:
A collaborative research group led by Birkbeck’s 
Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) is launching an important new project to better understand the challenges and opportunities associated with ‘digital forensics’. The project will look in particular at evidence derived from posts on social media platforms and communications on messaging applications, and at how such evidence is used in the investigation and prosecution of offline, interpersonal offences.

The study is funded by the Dawes Trust, and has a number of elements including case studies of investigations, as well as an online survey of CPS staff, police investigators and law enforcement, and criminal lawyers.

You can find more information about the research here.

Members are invited to participate in this short survey looking at how social media material is used in the investigation, prosecution, and defence of criminal cases. It will take no more than 5-10 minutes, and the results will feed into our research project on the use of forensic digital information in the Criminal Justice System. This original and critically important research project is being conducted by Birkbeck University, Perpetuity Research, and University College London. It is completely independent from all CJS organisations and your responses will be recorded anonymously. The results of the survey will be made publicly available​, and we hope it will help make the policing and prosecution of cases with significant social media elements fairer and more effective. Interested?
Please access the survey here should you wish to participate.


Parental Talk with Noel Janis-Norton:
Recorded on 22nd July 2020

A copy of the recording can be accessed here

Recorded on Tuesday 1st December 

A copy of the recording can be accessed here
SEC and Bar Mess Events:

Our 2021 SEC Education Programme is currently being prepared with further details published in the New Year. The programme will include (please do not ask to book just yet):
SEC/Diversifying your Practice:
SEC/Silk Applications (part one):
SEC/Silk Interviews (part two):
SEC/CPS Form Filling:
SEC/Recorder Exam Guidance:
Dame Ann Ebsworth Memorial Lecture:
Spring 2021
SEC/ Pupils: 
Autumn 2021

RASSO Refresher:
Autumn 2021

Judicial Q&A's (3 separate sessions):
Copyright © 2020 The South Eastern Circuit, All rights reserved.

update your preferences / unsubscribe from this list