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The South Eastern Circuit
Leader's Update
I had firmly planned for this message to be an open letter to my MP.  I might well have begun by explaining the damaging effect of a decade of underfunding on all parts of the CJS, how this had undermined resilience and left us deeply exposed to the current crisis…  how the MoJ budget had dropped 23% from 2010-11 to that planned for 2020-21 according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (Oct 2019).  How in this context it was perhaps not surprising that in 2011-12 the CPS prosecuted some 894,000 cases across all courts, but that by 2018-19 this had dropped 45% to 494,000 cases.  
 
Nothing any of you are not familiar with.  I would probably have gone on to say that our profession is deeply concerned about the damage to the entire justice system that will be caused by the huge delays now building up in all jurisdictions.  How our experience of the last two months is that the very wealthy and well-resourced can continue to achieve access to justice, but that everyone else is suffering badly.  How we think that the existence of a fair and accessible justice system lies at the very heart of the United Kingdom’s identity.  How we think that a restored justice system will play as important a part as any other public service in determining the success or otherwise of the UK’s part in the world when we have completed our departure from the European Union.  After all if we want the world to continue to do business and resolve its problems here, we need a functioning legal system and the lawyers to run it… 
 
But I am afraid that I have run out of time.  So, somewhat sheepishly, I urge you to do better than me and go
the Bar Council website and write to your MP as requested.
 
Criminal Legal Aid Review
You can find the
SEC response to the “Accelerated Asks” consultation.  This consultation now closes on 17th June.  Please follow the links in the last CBA message and write in.  You are welcome to adopt the Circuit, SBA or Bar Council responses, or even all three.
 
News about opening courts (Magistrates, County, Crown, RCJ)
The table
here sets out the hoped for opening dates for courts on Circuit in the next three weeks.  
 
Data
On Thursday
HMCTS published data that goes some way to set out the problems of the backlog.  

None of you need me to tell you how bad the problem is.  For two months now at least you have seen the question posed here and elsewhere… what is the plan to re-start? 
 
AND SO AT LAST… A NOTE OF OPTIMISM… Recovery Planning
Yesterday the catchily named “Additional Courts and Tribunals Capacity” (ACTC) planning group met for the first time.  It covers all jurisdictions.  You are represented by the Bar Council, SB
A and Circuit Leaders.  The attached documents are well worth reading.  HMCTS has acknowledged the scale of the problem and appears determined to tackle it.  The proof will follow, but we will keep trying everything to reopen the system on the kind of scale that will permit our courts to function properly and you to be able to earn a living again. 
 
I cannot make you any promises about timescale.  But for about three weeks now I have been suggesting to our politicians and civil service that there is no reason why we should not have the first of these spaces up and working by 1st August.  
 
I received this email from the ACTC team a few minutes ago:  

Thanks also to those of you have already provided suggestions for venues or feedback on the draft requirements. Just as reminder, the address to respond to is:  
ACTCHub@justice.gov.uk
 
Please feel free to copy me into anything you send.
 
Magistrates Courts
I now sit on a weekly meeting that reviews operational problems in the Magistrates Courts.  There is a similar group on every Circuit.  If you hear of anyone who has any problems with either social distancing or communication with Magistrates Courts, please let me know 
Leader@southeastcircuit.org.uk.  But times, dates and locations are crucial to us improving the system.  Older examples are less useful.  Twitter may be satisfying but is ultimately less helpful   
 
Lord Chief Justice
For anyone who has not watched the Chief’s last appearance on Parliament TV, you can read the transcript of his answers on 22nd May
here.
 
CVP and Prisons
The capacity problem is acute everywhere.  At its worst, some people report being offered conference dates in September.  Our concerns have been raised repeatedly at the highest level and I believe urgent planning is being done to try and address this appalling bottleneck.  The prison estate may deserve congratulations for keeping those inside relatively well protected from the worst ravages of the virus.  But urgent action is required to reconnect our clients to the outside world.  


Yours,
 
Mark Fenhalls QC
Leader of the South Eastern Circuit

leader@southeastcircuit.org.uk
Announcements:

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 
covid19@the-bba.com
 
Website: 
the-bba.com Email: covid19@the-bba.com
nicky@the-bba.com or annette@the-bba.com
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.


Vacancy:
The Bar Council is looking to nominate a barrister representative for the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (ICLR) in a 4 year post:
Full Details and to apply

SEC and Bar Mess Events:

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


Isleworth and Harrow Crown Court Meeting for Users:
Tuesday 16th June
17.00 -18.30
Skype Session
The Resident Judges for the Crown Courts at Isleworth and Harrow will be on-line with special guests to share information on present and future operations and answer questions from court users.

Book your place here

Southwark Crown Court Meeting for Users:
Wednesday 17th June
16.30 - 18.00
Skype Session
The Resident Judge of Southwark is holding a users group meeting and taking questions from court users.

Book your place here


SEC/CPS Form Filling Virtual Lecture:
Thursday 16th July
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.

Further details will be announced shortly. Please
register your interest to attend here.

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.

Further details will be announced shortly. Please
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.

Further details will be announced shortly. Please
register your interest to attend here.

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