The South Eastern Circuit
Leader's Update
I have been in Preston Crown Court this week.  My first court work since March.  Fortunately the variety of local lockdowns affecting families, witnesses, police teams and court staff have not proved to be a problem. The efforts of the court staff to get this (short, one defendant) trial up and running have been exemplary.  The court is spotless.  Everyone has to be patient, and everything takes longer, but it is possible and safe to attend trials and courts in the covid era.  But there is no getting away from the fact that one trial (Preston has ten courts) is all that is possible under current regulations. 
Last week I wrote that “I am told that a far more detailed recovery plan is to be published shortly”…  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.  
But adequate, covid-proof, physical space for court work is only part of the picture.  We are told by HMCTS that the huge drop in staffing levels in  the immediate aftermath of lockdown has been reversed and things are “nearly back to normal”.  You will all remember the distant days of February and your own views of staffing levels pre-covid, after a decade or more of cuts.  Of course part of the problem was that every time sitting days were cut, so too were staffing levels.   So the old “normal” was often one clerk running between two or three courts and too few ushers; and backstage far too few people working in administration and listing.  
We are told that recruitment is underway.  But to what levels?  Is anyone in HMCTS management really thinking about this?  We know how hard it is to get hold of overstretched list officers facing bulging inboxes.  But the problem is more complex.  I have seen this week that the demands on court staff for one trial are much greater than pre-covid.  My trial, split over three linked courts, requires 5 members of staff (clerk and ushers) to supervise and juggle technology, witnesses and jury.  And the clerk, who has been superb, cannot operate as she used to - sitting in front of the Judge keeping half an ear on proceedings while she answers emails and performs other tasks.  She is having to concentrate full time on the case, juggling tech links, watching screens and so her other work goes undone…
“Covid Operating Hours?”
This week you have already heard about the “EOH” proposals from the CBA, the Bar Council and perhaps even attended the Q&A with the CEO of HMCTS on Tuesday.  We are told that the only proposals for the moment are in employment and crime.

As far as crime is concerned, the SEC “pilot” is planned for Snaresbrook Crown Court.  The plans / model are not yet settled, but it seems probable that the experiment will be tested in one of the four trial courts that Snaresbrook hopes to have up and running in September.  I am very grateful to HHJ Martyn Zeidman QC, who has agreed to appear in a Q&A session at some point next month before the scheme begins, when he will be able to answer your questions about how it will operate.  

Snaresbrook is one of those courts that has suffered more than most from underinvestment and neglect.  Judges, staff and lawyers have all been working there in wholly unacceptable conditions for years.  Happily, some substantial works are almost complete to “fix the roof” – not a metaphor – and I am told that the Perspex is on its way.  This hopefully means there may be more than the four trial courts...  None of this is enough.  But at least it is heading in the right direction.
Select Committee Report
If you have not read the Justice Committee report published on Monday: ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): the impact on the legal professions in England and Wales’, 
you can find it here.  No one doubts the seriousness of the threat to all of our chambers and individual businesses.
Some of you will have read of 
the appointment of Mr Justice Edis to the Court of Appeal in October.  He has worked tirelessly, literally around the clock, for almost five months now trying to get the courts back to work.  Without his leadership of the Jury Trials Working Group, we would almost certainly be in an even more difficult position than we currently are.  We all owe him considerable thanks.  He has been a hugely supportive Lead Presider of our Circuit and I know you will share my delight in his elevation.

If you scroll down through the “announcements” below, those of you with young children about to start reception may find the free (until Monday) talk useful.  For others of you awaiting A level results, fingers firmly crossed. Enjoy the 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 Lawyer Secondments opportunities for Advocate Panel members at level 1 and 2 - click the relevant position for further details and to apply.

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. 

ICCA's Guidance - Expert Evidence:
The ICCA are delighted to announce the publication of the third edition of the ICCA's Guidance on the preparation, admission and examination of
expert evidence which can be found here.
The importance of expert evidence and the crucial role of advocates in promoting its reliability through high standards of case preparation has long been recognised. This guidance is intended to be generic, practical and relevant to advocates working in any court or tribunal in England and Wales. It is an introduction to, and/or a handy refresher of, the principles that underlie the use of expert evidence.

Access further information

Anchorage House Medway County Court - Pubic Consultation:
The consultation also sets out why it will be necessary to adopt temporary listing arrangements for the work currently heard at Medway County and Family court pending the completion of enabling works at Maidstone. We have outlined the reasons for our approach and why these temporary arrangements will be necessary. Work will be heard by telephone or video where possible, and the remaining work would be distributed between Medway Magistrates’ Court, Maidstone Combined Court (without enabling works), and county courts in Canterbury, Dartford and Thanet (Margate).
The consultation will run for four weeks and will close on 11th August 2020. Consultation
documents are available here. Please feel free to, cascade this information to your colleagues and interested parties at a national and regional level, as appropriate. Alternatively, if you would like to discuss this further, please do contact the project team at

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

A further Parental Talk is available to SEC members for free and until 10th August - after this date a cost of £24 will be attached to download this additional talk.  

This addional recording is aimed at parents who have children about to start reception class this year. 

Please download the recording here (nb: this free offer is only available until 10th August).
SEC and Bar Mess Events:

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.

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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