What has happened to January? Where has it gone?

This is my second FLBMail as chairman of the FLBA. Only twenty two more to go!

January has been an excellent first month.

Amongst other things, I attended my first ever meeting of the Bar Council. There can be few better ways to pass a Saturday morning. Perhaps, like me, you have always assumed that the Bar Council somehow just ‘happens’? Well I can tell you that it doesn’t. It depends upon a huge amount of hard work undertaken by a large number of barristers drawn from every discipline and at all levels of call. As family barristers, we incline, perhaps, to mix only with others practising in the same field (or at least I do). Attending the Bar Council made me realise that all barristers share the same concerns that we do; they are suspicious and resent the same things we do (No, not the BSB – Ed.), but we all share the same determination that an independent bar must survive and prosper in the future.

In this regard, we should all welcome the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice’s decision to scrap – or, at least, to delay for the next 12 months – yet further proposed cuts of 8.75 percent in the level of criminal legal aid. The CBA is to be applauded for its sustained efforts on behalf of the criminal bar. We share a common interest with the criminal bar. Legal aid is a necessary lifeline for some of the most vulnerable and destitute citizens in society. The folly of abolishing legal aid in almost all private law family cases is apparent to us all. None of the major political parties campaigned to reverse the cuts to legal aid at the last general election, and it is doubtful whether any will be able to afford to do so at the next. Those of us whose practices do not depend on legal aid are often well placed to lobby and speak up on behalf of those who do. I encourage you all to do so. After all, we all benefit from a strong and vibrant (family) bar in all its many and varied forms.

Which leads me almost seamlessly to the joint FLBA/ChBA seminar ‘Trusts and the Family Division: Current Issues’ which I attended on Monday evening at the LSE. I am delighted to report that this was sold out; it was literally standing room only. My grateful thanks to Mrs Justice (Jenny) Roberts who kindly agreed to chair the event, and to our three excellent speakers: Christopher Pocock QC, Miranda Allardice and Harry Oliver. These occasions offer an excellent opportunity to debate apparently conflicting approaches to common legal conundrums. In fact, on closer inspection we have far more in common than first impressions might suggest. I hope we shall be able to organise more events like this in the year ahead.

For example, there is obvious potential for collaboration between the FLBA and CBA in relation to vulnerable witnesses and other court users. The Bar Council has recently made the FLBA aware of a review being conducted by the MoJ into the support available to vulnerable individuals across the court system. Much work has already been done in relation to the criminal courts, and Mr Justice (Roderick) Newton is currently chairing a committee to address this issue within the family courts. I have asked Janet Bazley QC (of 1 Garden Court) who heads our children’s sub-committee to co-ordinate the FLBA’s response.

For information, I shall be attending the Financial Remedies Unit User Group Meeting at the Central Family Court on 25 February 2016. If you have a particular issue which you want me to raise, please email me.

Appointment of Queens Counsel

I am delighted to offer my sincere congratulations to each of the six family law barristers appointed Queens Counsel in January 2016. James Ewins (of QEB); Cyrus Larizadeh (of 4 Paper Buildings); Hannah Markham (of 36 Bedford Row); Andrew Norton of (1 Garden Court); Charles Prest of (Park Square, Leeds) and Aidan Vine (of Harcourt Chambers) should all feel justifiably proud of their achievements. They will be formally sworn in on Monday 22 February 2016. It is a most excellent and enjoyable day. I send them all our very best wishes.

For those who are interested, the next silk competition is expected to open on 12 February 2016. I think this is called the endless cycle of existence….

I also send the FLBA’s warmest congratulations to Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE of Dawson Cornwell, who will be well known to many of you, upon her appointment as an Honorary Queens Counsel for her enormous achievements in the field of international children abduction and her charitable work through Reunite.

FLBA (Annual) Events

Another plug, if I may, for the FLBA Annual Dinner 2016 which will be held in the Middle Temple Hall on Friday 26 February 2016. As previously announced, I am really delighted that Dominic Grieve QC MP has accepted an invitation to be our guest speaker. He is a passionate advocate both for human rights and for a strong and independent bar and makes excellent listening. I am determined to reach maximum capacity at the Dinner this year. I promise all the speeches will be commendably succinct (I think we’ve heard that before – Ed.). Do book early to avoid disappointment.

I attach the booking form for those who have managed to lose it (twice): Booking form and Invitation

The date for the FLBA National Conference 2016 in Birmingham is 22 October 2016. I am confident it will be an excellent day. Please put the date in your diaries.

Family Affairs

The Spring edition of Family Affairs is now being produced. If anyone has any contributions that they would like to have considered for publication, please send them to our terrific editor, John Wilson QC, at jaw@1hc.com by 24 February 2016. John and his team work exceptionally hard to produce Family Affairs. Please lend them your support.

FPR 2010 PD27A

I have already circulated a memorandum from the President on proposed amendments to FPR 2010 PD27A on which he invites our views. I attach a further copy. Please click here to download it. Individual responses should be sent by 1 March 2016 to Andrew Shaw in the President’s office: andrew.shaw@judiciary.gsi.gov.uk. Our own PD27A Questionnaire remains live on the website [ http://goo.gl/forms/ofAPFim1aB ] and I am anxious to gather as many different views as possible. It is already clear that members’ views obviously differ. Do remember, that by your silence you will be assumed to have signified your consent. So speak out now for or against what is proposed.

There are a number of other events and associated projects that I have been asked to bring to your attention:-

Resolution Survey

Our good friends at Resolution are conducting a survey and would like to hear from anyone working in the area of family law. Like me, many of you may already be associate members of Resolution. Resolution wants to gain the insight of family law professionals, including those who are not actively involved in Resolution. Apparently, by completing the survey you also have the chance to win £220 to spend on any Resolution service such as training or publications; or an iPad mini #marvellous! Why wouldn’t you undertake the survey? Please do so. I attach the link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Resolution-live

ICACU Guidance

The President has also asked us to publicise that the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (‘ICACU’) has issued a new form for requests for co-operation under Brussels IIa and the 1996 Hague Child Protection Convention and guidance notes in relation to care cases with an international element.

I attach a memorandum which contains a link to the ICACU site: memorandum

International Legal and Professional Grant Programme

FLBA members under 7 years’ call may be interested in the grant programme supported by the Bar Council Scholarship Trust which allows younger barristers to apply for financial assistance to participate in international legal events of their choice, which contribute to their professional development. Please note that the three application deadlines for this year’s programme are 12 February, 10 June and 21 October 2016, so you don’t have very long to apply. I attach a link to the website.

http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/supporting-the-bar/international/opportunities/international-legal-and-professional-development-grants-programme/

Social Media Evidence in Family Proceedings

The London Family Justice Board will be holding a training event at the Law Society on Wednesday, 24 February 2016 from 6:30pm until 8:30pm (2 CPD points). 50 seats will be allocated to barristers and it will be attended by solicitors, Local Authority practitioners, CAFCASS, Magistrates and the Judiciary. Please click here to download the flyer.

And finally, I wish you all an enjoyable February. Of course, we have the FLBA Annual Dinner to look forward to. I’m already excited. I’m told the chairman’s speech will be excellent this year.

Please do not hesitate to email me directly in chambers on pmarshall@1kbw.co.uk, or call me on 0207 936 1500 if you have something you wish to communicate or simply get off your chest.

Administrative enquiries should be sent to our excellent administrator, Khadija Khan, on admin@flba.co.uk or at 1 Garden Court, Temple, London EC4Y 9BJ

As ever

Philip

Philip J Marshall QC