The South Eastern Circuit
Leader's Update
Jury Trial Reform?
Juries could be reduced to as few as seven people for the first time since the Second World War under plans drawn up by Justice Secretary Robert Buckland’, reports the Daily Telegraph.

We have not been consulted on this, nor do we know what evidence is available to show that such a change will make a meaningful difference.  Why should any society consider such radical suggestions if there is no clear evidential basis to underpin the proposed policy?

HMCTS has spoken publicly of the “modelling” it relies on.  At a public zoom meeting on 9
th July, organised by the CBA, Ms Acland-Hood responded to a question saying that she would like to share the modelling and planning assumptions being used by HMCTS with the profession, but could not do so without Ministerial approval.  We have asked for this approval to be given swiftly.  
“Extended Operating Hours”
The same problem about absent or incomplete data/ assumptions/ modelling applies to all the jurisdictions.  A decade or more of underinvestment in the CJS has left us cynical and underwhelmed.  For years we have been the “oil” in the engine that keeps the parts moving; for years we have felt ill-used and underappreciated.  The outpouring of rage in response to these floated ideas should not surprise anyone at HMCTS.      

We will not close our minds to any fair and just proposal to get back to work.  So far we are only at discussion stage and no formal proposals have emerged.  When they do emerge, we will let you know.  But in the end if hours are imposed which are antisocial (bearing in mind that counsel need to be at court an hour before the start time, and frequently have to travel for 1.5 hrs) then there would need to be remuneration, and we would also invite the Government to take other mitigating steps.  For example to make childcare costs tax deductible for the period of time that such new arrangements are in place.

Remote vs In Person 
One chambers wrote to me this week and said:  

We cover two circuits from Chambers and at the last count we have something like 33 protocols from the courts in which we have current cases/ forward “fixtures” – really difficult to juggle everything’.
As more courts have gone back to work over the last couple of weeks, the variation in local practices have become more and more marked.  Some courts are saying ‘all hearings in person unless you apply with a reason’, while others have set out in detail which hearings will be remote by default. Circuit leaders continue to press for a more uniform national position.  We hope to see the SPJ early next week to discuss progress.
We all understand that “face to face” is usually essential whenever there is anything contentious to resolve, and that it may be better to attend in person when a client attends on bail.  And there is evidence (anecdotal and via research) that live link hearings produce sub-standard results, incompatible in many cases with the interests of justice.  But an overly muscular “turn up at all costs” is not the answer.
We know you are keen to get back to work.  None of us need reminding about the financial crisis we face.  But we hear regularly about occasions when some of you have been required to go to court in situations where you feel strongly that you could have done the hearing remotely with no difficulty. One correspondent writes:  

I AM content to go to court (a) in buildings where they have nailed the appropriate measures and seem to be taking their responsibilities very seriously and (b) where it is NECESSARY to do so. I am not at all happy at going - as I did at **** CC - to a building where it appears that they either haven’t heard of COVID and/ or couldn’t particularly care; and where a significant number of hearings were being held to either set dates, OR deal with agreed bail apps, OR simply issue bench warrants for non-compliance and where it was decreed that counsel must attend.’
Remote hearings are easier for some barristers who have caring responsibilities, and who do not have funds at the moment to pay for childcare, and do not have usual extended family support. Remote hearings are better for some barristers who are shielding, or have health concerns short of being in the shielding category. Remote hearings, where appropriate, help keep the footfall low and reduce the health risks to everyone.  And Government advice remains to work from home where possible…
Against that, we hear from judges that it is uncomfortable to have defendants in person in their courtrooms without representation, that remote hearings sometimes take far longer and require more staff time than hearings in person, and that hearings in person can be much swifter way to get through a volume of work.  Although this last point is often countered with a far greater degree of advance preparation for remote hearings.  

Many Judges would also make three perfectly reasonable requests: (i) that advocates should make sure they understand their tech, camera and microphone settings and remain up to date as software updates etc arrive; (ii) that advocates keep trying to engage with opponents to resolve as much as possible before hearings; and (iii) that we do everything we can to give, and stick to, reliable time estimates.  Of course most of you do all of these things instinctively, but many do not.  The more we can do all this successfully, the better our chances of making the benefits of remote working stick, and removing excuses to cut back on the use of technology.  And of course getting the balance right (and improving the response times of list offices to emails etc) will improve our resilience if we have another spike later in the year… 
In the meantime, do please write if there is a local problem. Sometimes problems are a result of miscommunication and can be solved by direct engagement between Bar and Bench.  Together with your Bar Mess Chair, I will try and help.
I have focused on three areas.  Rest assured nothing else has dropped off the agenda.  Not the fast track trials in the county courts, not the staffing crisis at HMCTS, not what should be in the Royal Commission on criminal justice…  you get the idea.  
The way ahead remains bumpy, but we will get there.  Whether you are enjoying the cricket or not, everyone should now be fans of Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent – do watch their interviews on YouTube.  I hope you enjoy a little sunshine this weekend.

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:
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:

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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