The South Eastern Circuit
Leader's Update
This week has seen the beginnings of the emergence of HMG’s recovery plan.  It is of course far easier to sit and criticise and much harder to do things oneself, but this does not mean we will not keep pointing out the positive changes that will help.

Last week the Lord Chancellor and the Chief Executive of HMCTS gave evidence to the Justice Select Committee: 
transcript.  On Wednesday the Lord Chancellor made a statement about the recovery plan for the Courts and Tribunals 

I of course welcome the spending of new money on refurbishing the Courts and improving video end-points in prisons, providing it happens, and they start spending now.  We do not have time to wait for months more.  I do not even mind if most of the spending is intended as support for plumbers, locksmiths,  decorators and IT firms, so long as it all helps improve capacity to hear more cases and we can start earning again.  
You can find more detail here.

The restart is slow, painful and already bumpy.  Our resilience has been undermined by a decade or more of feeling undervalued and conspicuous failure to adequately fund the justice system, criminal and civil.  I am often asked why the media is not more interested in stories about the crumbling justice system.  Actually it is (and the public are too), but in our “click bait” era of short attention spans, the Brexit and Covid stories consume all bandwidth.  We will keep trying. 

Bar Council surveys

The depressing but unsurprising results of the recent
Heads of Chambers survey can be found here.

Please take time to complete the Bar Council’s survey for individuals that
can be found here.  The deadline is 11pm tonight, so please do it now.  This kind of data really helps our lobbying.

Backlog Planning in every Jurisdiction

Civil. High-end well-resourced work proceeds.  Other areas of work do not.  The SBAs are working hard with the Bar Council to influence recovery planning wherever the opportunity arises.  Quite often one forms the impression that everyone else thinks they know better than the Bar.  Perhaps they do.

Jury Trials: Amanda’s update yesterday is spot on:

The MoJ is actively considering tampering with the right to jury trial. We are vociferously against it. It’s worth remembering that the Government never suggested addressing the extortionate backlog it had created pre-Covid by doing away with or reducing juries. 

We have been told there is no reliable data and we have been shown no modelling to demonstrate a need for constitutional change 
(emphasis added).

Though they now seem to be backtracking on some ideas (e.g. scrapping juries in some Crown Court trials), others, such as reducing juries to seven, still seem to lurk. With Circuit Leaders and the CBA we have suggested many ways the Government could reduce the backlogs without undermining the credibility of our justice system, whilst complying with social distancing. We hope they listen

I am confident they will share their modelling in due course, so we can test the assumptions they are applying.  By then who knows, we might know a bit more about what 1m+ actually means, or find that the Perspex screens on wheels do work and help increase jury trial capacity…?

I have no news to announce or trail about the alternative courts, notwithstanding the Lord Chancellor’s oft repeated announcement that 10 are in the pipeline.  Hopefully next week…?

Extended Hours? We still do not know what is going to be proposed. When something emerges we will consult the profession. We are not the only people who are likely to be unimpressed - pause and think for a moment about Judicial time, HMCTS and Probation staffing levels and all the other employees who would be affected.  

Crown Court Listing

Listing is a vexed subject at the moment. The “muscular” behaviour of some Judges is causing great grief for many of you.  Ultimately we are a face to face profession, and we need to be in person in court for the hearings that matter. Equally we are a profession that feels ignored, undervalued and has been driven to the brink over the last decade. And so we do not want to be dragged at short notice to a distant court at huge expense for a mention hearing, only to be told we are being adjourned… Getting this balance right is not easy.  No one wants to have to make applications based on CPR 3.2, the overriding objective, the LCJ’s public words, HMG guidelines etc.  It would be far, far better, if we can all reach a working consensus.  But this is going to take time and will be bumpy.  I know because I know how hard your Heads of Chambers are working to solve problems in the courts their members frequent.  Meanwhile, if you have a particular problem, please write to me and either I, or your Bar Mess Chair, will try and help.


Our stress levels over the last few months have been huge. Some of you will know people who are in real financial trouble.  Please nudge them in the direction of the BBA.  No one should be ashamed.

Many juniors are particularly anxious about the lack of work and the future of the profession. I have been invited, together with Caroline Goodwin QC (Chair of the CBA) and Katherine Duncan (Chair of the YBC), to a Q&A zoom session for Criminal Junior Juniors on Tuesday 7th July at 5pm. I would encourage those of you from 0-10 years call to attend. Please EMAIL to register and to submit any questions you would like to ask.

I know personal planning of all sorts is impossible – of course this is one of the greatest sources of stress – but I very much hope you are all able to enjoy a break this weekend, whether in a park, on a beach or possibly even in a pub garden!

Mark Fenhalls QC
Leader of the South Eastern Circuit

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. 

2020 Law Reform Essay Competition:
The essay competition is open to those in pupillage, having an offer of pupillage, undertaking the academic or vocational component of training for the Bar or actively seeking pupillage having completed the BPTC within the last five years.  It is aimed at fostering interest in law reform among aspiring barristers.  Entrants are invited to submit a 3,000 word essay making the case for a reform to English, Welsh or European law. The competition is generously sponsored by the Bar Council Scholarship Trust and offers prizes for winners, runners up and highly commended awards.
Please see the
website page here which gives more details including a YouTube video, previous winning essays, a blog from the 2019 prize-winner and the application form.  We have also posted on Twitter about the essay competition and it is included in the most recent edition of ‘BarTalk’.
If you would like any further information, please 
contact Eleanore Hughes.

The Council of the Inns of Court (COIC) seeks to recruit a talented Bar Course Designer/Tutor with experience of Civil Litigation and ADR for a 12-month maternity cover contract commencing on 1st October 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.
The successful candidate will take a leading role in the design and development of the Inns of Court College of Advocacy’s (ICCA) two-stage Bar Course before moving on to take on a role as a Bar Course Tutor in March 2021.
Reporting to the Bar Course Leader, the new Designer/Tutor will join a core team responsible for the development of Bar Course lesson and assessment content using the latest blended learning techniques.
For more information and a
full job description please follow this link

CPS Advocate Panel – NEW online application process / TEAMS training sessions:
From September 2020 all applications for the General Crime Panel (incl. RASSO) and Specialist Panels – new joiners and upgrades – will be completed and submitted using a new online application process.
The new process has been designed based on feedback from a range of current and prospective Panel members.  The new platform, which will be available in August, is intuitive to use and will provide applicants with a vastly improved experience.  
To support its launch, the Advocate Panel team are running a series of virtual training sessions in July 2020, via Microsoft Teams, for those wishing to join the Panel or upgrade their level in September or re-apply as part of the 2020 refresh.  Each session will provide an opportunity for potential applicants to:

  • Learn how to complete and submit an application using the new online process
  • Hear from CPS Assessors about how to complete a good quality application 

The sessions will last approximately an hour and be held on the following dates:
Wednesday 8th July – 4:30pm
Monday 20th July – 4:30pm
Thursday 23rd July – 4:30pm
If you are interested in attending one of these sessions, please contact as soon as possible to book your place. 
For any other queries, please contact the 
Advocate Panel mailbox where the team will be happy to assist.

SEC and Bar Mess Events:

Junior Juniors Q&A Session with the SEC, CBA and YBC:
"Coronavirus and the Criminal Bar" 
Tuesday 7th July
17.00 - 18.30
Zoom Session
Topics of discussion to include:
- Ensuring safety in both the Magistrates' and Crown Courts
- The backlog and means of addressing it
- The future of the criminal bar following Coronavirus
The panel members confirmed so far are Mark Fenhalls QC, Leader of the South Eastern Circuit (2021 Vice-Chair of the Bar Council); Caroline Goodwin QC, Chair of the Criminal Bar Association; and Katherine Duncan, Chair of the Young Barristers' Committee.  
If you are 0-10 years call and want to attend then please
EMAIL US to confirm your place.  Zoom invitations will be emailed to individuals directly on the morning of the talk.  
Please note: this event is for junior junior criminal barristers anywhere in the UK, not just SEC members.
Do feel free to include any questions you may have in your email to us, but there will also be the opportunity to ask questions via the 'chat' function on Zoom and / or to 'raise your hand' during the meeting and ask the panel directly.  We will be chairing the meeting and will try and let as many of you speak as possible within an hour / hour and a half.  

LGBT+ Visibility in the Legal Profession:
Tuesday 14th July 
18:00 – 20:00
Online Live Event

Further details and to book

ICCA Bar Course:
Junior members of the Bar and 2nd Six pupils
16.30 each day until the Courts reopen

Pupils can book into a session here

SEC/CPS Form Filling Virtual Lecture:
This Course will now take place in October 2020.
17.00 - 18.30
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.

Wellbeing Event:
Calmer, Easier, Happier, Parenting
Guest Speaker: Noël Janis-Norton 
Wednesday 22nd July 
17.30 - 19.00
Virtual Seminar
Further details and to book your place

SEC/Silk Application Guidance - Virtual Lecture:
Thursday 30th July
17.00 - 18.30
This session draws together the exercise of those who have successfully attained the rank of Queen’s Counsel in recent application rounds and long standing Queen’s Counsel to provide a breadth of experience and advice.  The session will take a holistic approach and will explore the steps to be taken before any application is made, the pitfalls and mistakes that should be avoided, case and reference selection issues.

register your interest to attend here.

SEC/Recorder Exam Guidance - 
Virtual Lecture:
Thursday 3rd September
17.00 - 18.30
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.

register your interest to attend here.

Diversifying your Practice:
An Evening in September
Further details will be announced shortly
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