The South Eastern Circuit
Leader's Update
A statement just released by HMCTS about the positive Covid results in Manchester Crown Court this week.
Bar Council’s recording of the Q&A with Susan Acland-Hood of HMCTS held on 4th August.
The Crime Recovery Plan?
At the time of writing nothing had been published, again.  I could rewrite what I have said previously, but it is easier to cut and paste:  ‘Perhaps next week we will learn what the plans are, county by county, court centre by court centre ... meanwhile the waiting breeds uncertainty, and more anxiety and stress.’   Witnesses and complainants are forced to wait; defendants languish in custody and the public is ill-served.
My hope is that the various physical changes to court rooms which we are promised will mean that the autumn might see trial capacity in London up to about 1/3 of pre-Covid levels.  And higher by year end.  Meanwhile, some Chambers are closing and others hang on by their fingernails.  If you (or someone you know) is in real trouble please ask the Barristers Benevolent Association for help – see notice below.  The Inns and others raised a substantial quantity of money at the start of the crisis.  It is there to be called upon by those in need. 
S28 – pre-recorded cross examination 
I am told that the Statutory Instrument that will bring the section into force in 15 SEC courts will be signed next week and should be in force from 24th August.  The likely (but I stress yet to be legally confirmed) list  of courts is: Basildon, Canterbury, CCC, Chelmsford, Croydon, Guildford, Harrow, Inner London, Isleworth, Lewes, Maidstone, Snaresbrook, Southwark, Wood Green, and Woolwich.
Opinion seems split on whether this applies only to new cases or may be used on backlog cases already in the system.  It would make sense to be able to use it for the cases already prepared for trial, but unable to find jury time.  These trials are the cases where it should be used first.  Instructions ought to be in place, disclosure complete, preparations advanced, witnesses will have waited for months or years already…  New cases will continue to be bedevilled by the paralysis in prisons and the failure, so far, to scale up video-endpoint capacity in the prison estate.
These cases need less space than jury trials and it ought to be possible to accommodate them around the jury trial court rooms.  The tech is in place and staff training is underway.  Staff numbers will be critical to the success of the project.  As will scheduling to make sure all the component pieces are ready at the appointed time, so that the allotted court time is not wasted.  The most vulnerable of witnesses are spared waiting months or years for a jury slot, and have a chance to give their evidence and get on with their lives; and you get paid.
I have been repeating the message in every meeting I attend that it is HMCTS staffing levels that are critical to the recovery.  Post-Covid work in the CJS requires more people than before.  And what we had back in the distant, sepia-tinged days of the last decade was inadequate, even for a much less intensive and demanding workload.  
Only this week, I was told about a hearing in one London court where the Judge asked a question of the list office.  The clerk in court was told that s/he had to email the list office and the parties sat waiting for more than 20 minutes for a response.  If that is how they treat their own Judges and staff, it is hardly surprising the rest of us find it difficult to get hold of someone to answer a question or provide essential information.  
Isleworth and Harrow event
The Resident Judges for the Crown Courts at Isleworth and Harrow will host a Skype Q&A session from 17:00 to 18:15 on Wednesday 19th August 2020.  They will describe plans for listing trials through the autumn of 2020 and answer questions from court users.
Those who asked for and received an invitation to the last meeting on 16th June will automatically receive an invitation to this one.  If you were not an invitee to that meeting and want an invitation please email  Please put AUGUST SKYPE-IN in the Subject line.  Questions may be included in requests for a joining invitation or by instant message during the event.
I hope you get the right blend of sunshine and cooling rain over the next couple of weeks.  And that your family A-Level and GCSE results days bring more joy than misery.

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. 

Nominations for the 2020 Bar Pro Bono Awards are OPEN!
Do you have a friend or colleague who goes above and beyond for every pro bono client? A mentor who goes the extra mile? A clerk who always manages to find time in everyone’s diaries for pro bono work? 

Give them the recognition they deserve by nominating them for a Bar Pro Bono Award at 

The deadline for nominations is Sunday 27th September 2020 and most of the awards will be presented at an online awards ceremony during Pro Bono Week in November. 

Young Citizens Bar Mock Trial Steering Group:
'message from the programme administrator'
Since we last spoke, a lot has changed. We hope you and those close to you are doing well during these times. At Young Citizens we have been thinking about preserving and adapting our programmes given the uncertainty that surrounds us. In light of this, we have made the following changes to this year's programme. 

  • Changes to the application timeline. (The key dates are below, but the full timetable is on our website.)
          Regional heats held - late January/early February 2021
          National Final - March 2021
  • Wider use of remote mentoring for schools. In recent years we have encouraged barrister mentors to be open to the option of providing remote mentoring assistance, rather than visiting schools in person. In light of the current situation, it will probably come of little surprise that for 2020/21 we’re moving to a predominantly remote model.  We understand that school visits may not be possible in the next academic year but still want to continue providing support to the schools who want to participate during what we know will be a challenging time for teachers.
We understand that uncertainty due to COVID-19 is not limited to schools, and that you may not be able to commit to helping out yet due to the workload and time commitments resulting from disruptions caused to the legal system, but we are doing our best to plan ahead for next year’s heats, and as such we would be very grateful for any indication you could give at this point as to the likelihood you’ll be available to mentor in the next cycle.
Once again the commitment would be for 2 (remote) mentoring sessions, however with the school preparation period running from September to January (with the first heats planned for 16th Jan), there’s more time than usual to fit these into your schedule. We will be providing updated guidance and support for a new model of remote mentoring to you and schools in due course.

The key questions for us right now are:
  • Are you likely to be able to mentor between the months of September to January?
  • Could you do so remotely?

Please do fill in this survey at your convenience if you’re up for taking part, and if you could pass this message along to your colleagues in the profession we’d be doubly grateful.


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:

Listings Seminar - Isleworth and Harrow Crown Courts:
The Resident Judges for the Crown Courts at Isleworth and Harrow will be on-line to share information on the plans for listing trials through the autumn of 2020 and answer questions from court users.
Skype-in session 17:00 to 18:15 Wednesday 19th August 2020
Those who asked for and received an invitation to the last meeting on 16th June will automatically receive an invitation to this one.  If you were not an invitee to that meeting then to be sent a joining invitation please email  Please put AUGUST SKYPE-IN in the Subject line.
Questions may be included in requests for a joining invitation or by instant message during the event

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.

Section 28:
An Evening in September
Further details will be announced shortly

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

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.
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