Government spending cuts

Last week the BBC reported its understanding of the spending cuts which will be announced by the Chancellor in his July Budget. The Ministry of Justice is required to find savings of £249m which it plans to achieve by restricting the use of consultants and delaying capital projects. £105m will be saved by changing the timing of capital projects and an additional £144m will be saved by measures including cutting travel, overtime and the use of consultants or agency staff (£58m) and renegotiating contracts. Some details are yet to be finalised but the MoJ says further cuts to legal aid “do not form part of this package” (emphasis added). Here is the link to the full report.

Appearing against litigants in person

Guidelines for lawyers who find themselves in court against litigants in person have been developed by the Bar Council, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and the Law Society. The guidelines discuss how far lawyers can help unrepresented people without this conflicting with their duties to their own clients. Lawyers are advised to communicate clearly and avoid technical language or legal jargon, or to explain jargon to the unrepresented party where it cannot be avoided. Here is the link.

Bar Representation Fee (the ‘BRF’)

May I urge you please to subscribe to the Bar Council’s BRF, which costs only £100 per year. The BRF funds, in whole or in part, key activities of the Bar Council on behalf of the profession, for example:-

  • Representing the Bar’s interests and promoting and supporting fair access to justice;
  • The Bar Mentoring Service to help barristers develop their career, secure silk and judicial appointments;
  • Promotion of Public Access and the benefits of directly instructing the Bar;
  • The Social Mobility Placement Scheme to promote wider access to the Bar by working with talented students who might not otherwise gain such access;
  • Publications and newsletters on important practice management issues such as remuneration, taxation and business efficiencies;
  • Research and support to help shape the entities and business models for the future Bar.

Unless all barristers subscribe to the BRF the provision of these important services is at risk. Other valuable benefits for those who pay the BRF are:-

  • Discounts on all training courses and conferences run by the Bar Council;
  • Access to the ‘Xexec’ portal which offers substantial discounts on everything from weekly shopping at major supermarkets to gifts and holidays; • A monthly subscription to Counsel Magazine (normally £100);
  • Unlimited copies of Certificates of Good Standing (otherwise £100 per certificate). The £100 fee can be recouped readily through these benefits.

Here is the link to more information about the extensive benefits and how to pay.

Funds raised by the Practising Certificate Fee (‘PCF’) can be used only as determined by section 51 of the Legal Services Act 2007: regulation of the Bar, fees collection and the Ethical Enquiries Service. The BRF does not fund the commercial activity of the Bar Council; the commercial activity is a valuable source of additional income which funds campaigns and support for the Bar.

Press access to skeleton arguments in the Court of Appeal:

The Civil Procedure Rule Committee is consulting with the Bar Council and the FPRC (among others) on a proposal to amend CPR Practice Direction 52C by the addition of a new paragraph 33 as follows:

“Documents to be provided to court reporters at the hearing of an appeal

33

(1) Where a party is legally represented at the hearing of an appeal, the legal representative must bring to the hearing two additional copies of the party’s skeleton argument (including any supplementary skeleton argument) for provision to accredited law reporters and accredited media reporters in accordance with sub-paragraphs (2) and (3) below.

(2) The additional copies must be supplied before the commencement of the hearing to the usher or other court official present in court.

(3) The usher or other court official to whom the copies are supplied must provide one copy to an accredited law reporter (upon production of their Royal Courts of Justice security pass) and one copy to an accredited media reporter (upon production of their press pass), if so requested by them. Those copies are to be provided on the basis that the recipients may remove them from the court and may make further copies of them for distribution to other accredited reporters in court.

(4) Any party may apply orally to the court at the commencement of the hearing for a direction lifting or varying the obligations imposed by sub-paragraphs (2) and (3). Where a party intends to make such an application or is notified by another party of the intention to make one, the operation of those sub-paragraphs is suspended pending the ruling of the court.”

The Association will be providing its view to the Bar Council and the FPRC and welcomes any observations from the membership.

Law Commission Consultation: Enforcement of Family Financial Orders

The Association is preparing its response, the deadline being 11 July 2015. As always we welcome views on any aspect of the consultation, which can be accessed here. But in particular we need your experiences in order better to deal with this question:

THE IMPACT OF ENFORCEMENT

6.3 We ask consultees to tell us about their experiences of the impact, financial and otherwise, of:

(1) non-payment of sums due under family financial orders;

(2) difficulties in obtaining information and advice about the enforcement of family financial orders, including court procedure; and

(3) enforcement proceedings on

(a) debtor and creditor;

(b) third parties (such as the debtor’s other creditors);

(c) banks and financial institutions; and

(d) the family justice system.

Please email me jacklin@1gc.com or Leslie Samuels QC l.samuels@pumpcourtchambers.com

Institute of Family Law Arbitrators

The next training course is on 14 and 15 October 2015. Contact for information and booking: jacquijackson.ifla@mail.com

International CPD Legal and Professional Development Grant Programme

The deadline for the International Grant Programme has been extended to 19 June 2015. This programme supports junior barristers (of 7 years practice or less), who are in employed or self-employed practice to participate in international events or conferences of their choice by providing them with financial support. For further information and an application form, please click here  or contact Member Services: memberservices@Barcouncil.org.uk or telephone 020 7611 1366.

Judicial appointments:

As you know MacDonald J was sworn in on Wednesday 3 June. John Vater QC, a contemporary and close friend of MacDonald J, gave a moving speech of tribute in the LCJ’s court. There was an excellent turnout from the Family Bar, with many travelling from the Midlands for the occasion. In the President’s Court Elizabeth McGrath QC gave a warm and witty speech to which MacDonald J responded with equal wit and warmth. Also last week it was announced that District Judge Hess has been appointed to the Circuit bench, allocated to the Family Court in Portsmouth. While the Association has sent its sincere congratulations to HHJ Hess it also must record that this is a significant loss for the Financial Remedies Unit at CFC.

Susan Jacklin QC Chairman