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The South Eastern Circuit
Leader's Update

The AGM
We held the AGM on Wednesday.  For those who do not twitter, I am delighted to announce that your next Circuit Leader will be Christine Agnew QC.  A gradual handover will take place over the next six weeks.  I am hugely grateful to Christine who is taking over at a critical time.  We have done so much to rebuild and yet there is so much that needs to be done.  A number of very good candidates have been elected to the Committee this year.  I am confident you will be in great hands and that Circuit life will flourish again next year.

The Virtual Bar Conference
This began on Wednesday evening and was launched with excellent introductory speeches by Amanda Pinto QC and Katherine Duncan (YBC).  The Lord Chief Justice then gave us a tour of 2020 and 2021.  Key points to note:

  1. The Government decision to have a one-year spending review from 25th November ‘in order to prioritise the response to Covid-19, and our focus on supporting jobs’ means that long-term planning for the MoJ is much, much harder. 
  1. The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice have said that there is no limit to sitting days in this financial year.  But no promises have been made for the financial year starting in April 2021. 
  1. To fund the CJS properly you need to determine what might be coming down the tracks as well as current backlogs.  Government needs to calculate, for example, what increased levels of criminal work might exist as a consequence of reduced numbers of RUIs and increased employment in the police and CPS. 

Talking about it is only the first step…
On Wednesday, the Black Barristers Network (“BBN”) published its 
report of the outcome of its survey of Black Barristers at the self-employed Bar, conducted between July and August 2020. To quote the press release:  ‘The results contain a number of positive features. As an example, a majority of respondents felt that their Chambers supported them to promote their practices at the Bar irrespective of race.’  Please take the time to read the report, think about it and consider what you and your chambers could and should be doing better. 
 
Data – what is really going on in the Courts and Tribunals?
HMCTS now publishes “management data” showing the backlogs.  This comes with a host of caveats, because it does not meet the exalted statistical standards required by government.  I fear that it is not the whole picture in any event because it does not really capture all the challenges we face.  Nor is the data sufficiently granular to answer your questions about e.g. multi-handed cases.  You can have your own wander around 
by clicking here.  But here are some headlines.

In civil the number of cases received (and defences served) dipped in the summer.  But there is plainly a big problem if one looks at the column that is entitled “small claims, time to first full hearing”.  In Sept 2019 it was 38 weeks.  Now it is has risen to 52 weeks.  

In private family law outstanding cases have risen 51% from 48,557 to 73,527.  In public law family cases the number outstanding has risen 30% from 17,494 to 22,753 and the average time taken to dispose of the vital care and supervision cases has risen by almost a third from 33.9 to 41.8 weeks. (September figures not available).

Tribunals.  There do not seem to be any figures from social security and child support, nor for immigration and asylum.  I am no conspiracy theorist, but this absence of data does not fill me with confidence.  As for employment, we can all imagine the distortions and confusion wrought by furlough and there definitely was a dip in the summer as the backlog dropped.  But the numbers reveal the kind of U or V shaped “recovery” we do not want… 38,138 outstanding cases in September 2019 has gone up 22% to 46,512 cases by September 2020.

The Magistrates Court pattern shows the expected explosion of cases between March and the summer.  But the numbers begin to stabilise as the recovery planning took effect in July and August and there has been a drop in outstanding cases in September.  

The number of outstanding cases in the Crown Court has risen steadily from 34,887 to 49,760 – up by more than 40% and rising. 















Of that increase, approximately 5,000 was pre-Covid and 10,000 since.  Given the relative success in dealing with non-trials in a timely fashion, this increase almost certainly represents a huge delay for the vast majority of trials – particularly of course multi-handed cases.  These are the problems we will be wrestling with over the coming years.

If you have not already read it I recommend yesterday’s piece in the Guardian featuring the Chair of the CBA, 
James Mulholland QC:  Criminal justice system is 'on its knees', says top English lawyer.
 
Covid Operating Hours?  We have been invited to a meeting on Monday at which we may discover what the MoJ has learned from the pilots and what it proposes next in relation to COHs.  
 
Harrow and Isleworth Crown Courts “Skype-in”.  Hosted by the Residents, this event takes place next week at 5pm on Thursday 26th.  Both HHJ Dean and HHJ Edmunds QC encourage questions and will do their best to explain all the current developments facing their courts, their plans for the winter and the challenges we all face.  If you want to join 
please email by 5pm on Tuesday and we will arrange an invitation.
 
Finally
The days are oh so grey and the nights are drawing in.  Somehow it feels harder to escape our screens and desks.  But this second lockdown feels very different from the first for a whole series of reasons.  Many of you are working;  you wait months for a vaccine and all of a sudden three come along at once;  some money may have started to come in again, but you may be worrying about the safety of being at work and debts due next year.  So whether you find your consolation outside contemplating the autumn colours, learning the guitar, sobbing through Bake-Off or, like me, spending too much time on the sofa, cheese and wine to hand, planning next year’s exercise regime, I wish you all a very good weekend.

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. 


Law Care - Life in the Law research:

Law Care have launched a ground breaking research study, ‘Life in the Law’ lifeinthelaw.org.uk and have asked  the membership for assistance.  

Law Care want to encourage as many people working in the legal profession, those in training, legally qualified and support staff, to take part, as the results of this study will pave the way for determining what we can do as a profession to improve the support available to people working in the legal profession by enhancing our understanding of the issues that affect mental health and wellbeing. The data will help us all drive long lasting cultural change in legal workplaces to benefit both the present and future generation of lawyers and staff. Law Care expect the results to also form the basis of an academic paper.
 
Your support in helping to promote the study would be really appreciated. 
 
To give you an overview of the study, please see the following links, a FAQ document will be uploaded and circulated once prepared.  


Updated Snaresbrook Crown Court S28 Protocol - November:
Accessed here

 

PCU WIFI in HMCTS Buildings:
PCU WiFi is changing and will no longer be available in HMCTS buildings from 15th January 2021. HMCTS are upgrading the authentication service which will provide:
  • Secure form of authentication
  • No need for password renewal (currently every 90 days)
  • No need to re-authenticate when moving between sites
  • Further alignment to best practice.

All PCU WiFi users will need to register for a GovWiFi account before 15th January 2021.

Simply text ‘Go’ to 07537417417 to get connected.

This is a one-time registration. You will then be able to connect wherever GovWiFi is available.

Further information on how to connect and manage your installation is available at the GovWiFi website.
 

Digital forensic material - an academic study:
A collaborative research group led by Birkbeck’s 
Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) is launching an important new project to better understand the challenges and opportunities associated with ‘digital forensics’. The project will look in particular at evidence derived from posts on social media platforms and communications on messaging applications, and at how such evidence is used in the investigation and prosecution of offline, interpersonal offences.

The study is funded by the Dawes Trust, and has a number of elements including case studies of investigations, as well as an online survey of CPS staff, police investigators and law enforcement, and criminal lawyers.

You can find more information about the research here.

Members are invited to participate in this short survey looking at how social media material is used in the investigation, prosecution, and defence of criminal cases. It will take no more than 5-10 minutes, and the results will feed into our research project on the use of forensic digital information in the Criminal Justice System. This original and critically important research project is being conducted by Birkbeck University, Perpetuity Research, and University College London. It is completely independent from all CJS organisations and your responses will be recorded anonymously. The results of the survey will be made publicly available​, and we hope it will help make the policing and prosecution of cases with significant social media elements fairer and more effective. Interested?
Please access the survey here should you wish to participate.

Wellbeing:

Parental Talk with Noel Janis-Norton:
Recorded on 22nd July 2020

A copy of the this recording can be accessed here

'Resiliance'
Tuesday 1st December 
17.0
0 - 18.30
Guest Speak
er: W S Mitchell MA PHd Dip Clin Psych FBPS MRSM, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
The session introduces resilience as a set of skills making up a balancing system to keep us around the optimal zone in the energy and effectiveness curve;  focused on personal resilience: maintaining the physiology of energy; creating some balance inside the existing areas of flexibility, working effectively so as not to get overwhelmed, identifying levers of control for focused working and maintaining positive challenge based mind-sets about work.

Full details and to book

SEC and Bar Mess Events:

Annual Law Reform Lecture - Judicial Review:
Thursday 3rd December
17.30 - 19.30
Speaker: The Rt. Hon. Lord Carnwath of Notting Hill 

Full details and to book


Christmas Concert:
'Celebrate Christmas with two access to justice charities at the annual Advocate and LawWorks Christmas Carol Concert' 
Tuesday 15th December 2020
18.30 - 19.30 

Full details and to book


Our 2021 SEC Education Programme is currently being prepared with further details published shortly which will include (please do not ask to book just yet):
SEC/Diversifying your Practice:
2021
 
SEC/Silk Applications (part one):
2021
 
SEC/Silk Interviews (part two):
2021
 
SEC/CPS Form Filling:
2021
 
SEC/Recorder Exam Guidance:
2021
 
Dame Ann Ebsworth Memorial Lecture:
Spring 2021
 
SEC/ Pupils: 
Autumn 2021

RASSO Refresher:
Autumn 2021


Judicial Q&A's (3 separate sessions):
2021
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