The South Eastern Circuit
Leader's Update

I am delighted to be able to hand over the first part of this message to Rebecca Wilkie, Chief Executive of “
Advocate” the pro bono charity of the Bar.  I know there are some who think that the Bar’s willingness to do pro bono work across all jurisdictions somehow plugs a gap that ought to be filled by government. But putting those arguments to one side, we should celebrate all those advocates who go the extra mile to provide superb legal services as Rebecca describes below.   Whatever your field, do have a look at Advocate’s work and take up Rebecca’s invitation to participate next week.  

Honouring the Bar: Pro Bono Week:
Monday 2nd November marks the start of Pro Bono Week, an opportunity to celebrate the national pro bono effort. 

At Advocate (formerly the Bar Pro Bono Unit) we have had our busiest year yet thanks to the Bar’s magnificent contribution. Responding to increased demand during the pandemic, barristers had taken on 1,087 pieces of work by the end of September (compared to 787 in all of 2019) and 410 new panel members signed up to help. We have a steady stream of interesting and varied work so if you think you’d like to volunteer, find out more on our 
barrister volunteering page. To find out more about the kinds of cases Advocate takes on, please check our applicant stories page.

Our highlight of Pro Bono Week is the 2020 Bar Pro Bono Awards. Reflecting the Bar’s commitment over the past year, we received a record-breaking 51 nominations. We will be announcing the winners and sharing their stories at our virtual ceremony on 4th November at 7.15pm so please do join us 
here.  The week also sees a number of other events for the Bar and which members of the South Eastern Circuit are warmly welcome to attend:

  • The FLBA and Advocate are holding their first joint event. FLBA Chair Cyrus Larizadeh QC and Young Pro Bono Barrister of the year nominee Zimran Samuel will talk and answer questions about their experiences and the role of pro bono in family law on 2nd NovemberClick here to join.
  • New panel members are invited to have Tea with the Team on Zoom on 3rd November. Sign up to Advocate and get the chance to talk to the staff about some of our important work and most interesting cases.
  • Clerks hour – in conjunction with the IBC and ABC Chambers’ Solutions – Chambers’ support is integral to our success so we’re spotlighting how clerks and practice managers can help to encourage their members take cases and discuss what other sets are doing. 5th November at 10 am. Click here to sign up. 
  • Top Ten newsletter. We’re launching a new monthly newsletter designed to engage and inform while being quick and easy to read. Please sign up to find out more about our cases, our barristers, news, quotes and much more.
The Crumbling Justice System:
None of you need educating about this.  I am grateful to those who have raised specific problems with me this week about Snaresbrook and Maidstone.  The RJs share your frustrations, and we are putting all the pressure we can on HMCTS to solve the worst and most urgent problems.
For those who were not listening to the Today programme this morning, Clive Coleman and the former LCJ, Lord Thomas, were interviewed at about 8:40am.  They are both well worth listening to.  You can find a print version of
Clive’s piece here, which references this recent report about where the backlog might be in 2024 if Government fails to act.  This will be a constant recurring issue for the entirety of this parliament I suspect.
Thank you:
I am delighted and grateful that HHJ Usha Karu (Inner London), HHJ Christine Laing QC (Lewes) and HHJ Christopher Kinch QC (Woolwich) were able to join us for a Q&A on Tuesday.  It was an excellent event and will be available online on the SEC website soon alongside other Q&A sessions.  Three summary points for you:

Safety at court
RJs everywhere are getting increasing numbers of reports from court staff (and jurors) about members of the legal profession in courts not complying with COVID safety measures.  I am told there have been some occasions when staff have tried to encourage lawyers to change their behaviour, but this has not always been well received.  I am not suggesting for a moment that any of you think that the rules do not apply to you.  We all know we should be wearing masks in the public areas.  We also know how easy it is to forget.  It is in all our interests that the courts continue to operate through the bumpy weeks ahead as the country faces harsher restrictions everywhere.  Wearing your mask and protecting other court users will help us all keep earning a living.    

The Cells
I am told that 
  • Custody staff will now wear PPE whilst in the custody suite. This will be required at all times with a few minor exceptions (e.g. if their rest room is sufficient in size to enable adequate social distancing)
  • Custody visitors will also be required to wear a face covering (unless exempt) at all times while in the custody suite
  • Custody staff will also be mandated to wear PPE whilst in the dock within the court room, unless specifically directed otherwise by the Judge 
  • Prisoners will be encouraged but not mandated to wear a face covering (intended position but not yet confirmed awaiting final policy decision)

If you want the courts to make better use of remote hearings, you can make a real difference by putting your contact details in widely shared comments section of the DCS and liaising with your opponent in advance of hearings.  If you think you have a trial that is ready to go, speak to your opponent and let the list offices know.  They are always looking for short cases to fill gaps when the priority work cracks or goes quicker than expected.
Court Capacity:
This is a constantly evolving process as HMCTS makes the best of what it has and bids for more money from Treasury for more projects, including more Nightingale courts in all jurisdictions.  On Tuesday for example, we heard about work being done to see if Chichester Crown Court could be reopened successfully.  I have heard today about King’s Lynn Crown Court reopening shortly and have seen the photos of the court room and retiring room with the screens etc in place.  The change of policy from PECS about the cells will play a role in opening up more capacity in the Crown Courts.  
Extension of ID card scheme:
You can find a
link here to the most recent list of where the scheme operates.  The Bar Council continues to press the MoJ to implement in every court building across the country.  
I wish you all a very good weekend.


Mark Fenhalls QC
Leader of the South Eastern Circuit

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:
Accessed here


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.

The South Eastern Circuit was approached and asked to circulate these details to the members involved in both the defence and/or prosecution of criminal cases, who may have dealt with social media material as part of these cases

You can find more information about the research here.


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

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

Our 2021 SEC Education Programme is currently being prepared and will be published shortly.

SEC/Recorder Exam Guidance - Virtual Lecture:
A session focused on exploring how to approach the recorder application process.  This seminar draws on the expertise of sitting Recorders and Circuit Judges to explore prepare to make an application, how to navigate the application form and its pitfalls, and how to approach the final exam.  This session is expected to be very popular; please reserve your place as soon as possible.

Diversifying your Practice:
SEC/CPS Form Filling Virtual Lecture:
An intensive session designed to explore all issues surrounding CPS grading applications.  A panel of speakers will discuss how to tailor your experience to the CPS grading criteria, and to project your skills appropriately.  There will also be an exploration of common mistakes made in the application process, and how to best avoid these.
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