(Members are encouraged to attend the AGM at the Great Hall, Lincoln's Inn)
2000 Bar News :
Extracts from BAR COUNCIL MEETING - 5TH FEBRUARY 2000
1. The Chairman's statement outlined the various issues facing the profession. He referred in particular to the challenges facing the criminal Bar. He reported the proposal to have a Chambers Delegate Conference on Saturday I1th March when many of the topics currently on the agenda would be discussed. He referred to the defeat of the Government in the Criminal Justice Mode of Trial Bill in the House of Lords and reported the Government was intending to introduce a number two Bill.
2. More than One Advocate and Queen's Counsel Alone
Roy Amlot QC reported that the Bar Council had submitted a response to the Lord Chancellor on this topic. The response appeared at Annex 1 on the agenda. He said the Bar Council had taken a constructive approach in responding and had proposed a high test. He reported on the strong support from the judiciary. It was also noted that the Law Society appeared to adopting a similar approach.
3. Legal Aid Remuneration
Stephen Irwin QC reported on the state of play in connection with the latest consultations on criminal and family graduated fees, criminal high cost cases, multi-party actions and civil high cost cases. Much of his report concentrated on the first issue. He reported that he believed the current graduated fees scheme was working well, it was simple, transparent and it gave the Government control and reduced their administrative costs. He emphasised the importance of hearing from the Government their views on graduated fees in criminal cases. With regard to the figure of £93,000 quoted as the average of barristers income in the BDO Stoy Hayward survey, he emphasised that this included Queen's Counsel and privately funded work which in some instances amounted to as much as 50%. He reported on the proposal to extend criminal graduated fees to 25 days and that work was progressing on a family graduated scheme. In the discussion that followed the Director of Public Prosecutions said that he felt the terms of the response in the letter of the 31st January were good, but he suggested it was a mistake to dismiss completely the use of pages and witnesses. He stressed they should not be the only criteria.
4. Disciplinary Tribunals
The proposals at Annex 3 were approved in principle subject to the concerns that it was preferable for a judge to chair the Tribunals.
5. The Auld Review of the Criminal Courts
The Chairman reported that the review provided an opportunity for the profession to co-operate in seeking improvements to the Criminal Courts system. A team of working parties had been set up by the Criminal Bar Association led by Douglas Day QC.
Extracts from BAR COUNCIL MEEETING - 25 MARCH 2000
1. Code of Conduct and Consolidated Regulations
George Leggatt QC, Vice-Chairman of the Professional Standards Committee, spoke on this subject. Last year the draft of amendments to the Code and the Consolidated Regulations had been submitted to the Lard Chancellor who had referred them to his Legal Services Consultative Panel (replacing ACLEC). The Panel came back to us in February raising a number of issues. In consequence further amendments had been drafted so as to take account of concerns that had been raised.
Approval for these amendments was duly given. Thee new provisions as now agreed are to come into force on the day when the relevant sections of the Access to Justice Act are brought into effect.
As presently formulated, the "three year rule" [para 203 of the Code of Conduct] requires a barrister for the first three years in which he exercises a full right of audience to practice from the same chambers or office as a more senior lawyer who is of at' least five years standing.' It now says that a barrister of less than three years must make his principal place of practice in a chambers or office which is also the principal place of practice of a 'qualified person who is able to provide guidance.' A 'qualified person' for this purpose may be either a barrister or solicitor, and is to be defined in terms similar to those applicable to pupil-masters. The Bar Council will have power to disqualify someone who has proved unsuitable to be a 'qualified person'.
In the Consolidated Regulations, further amendments have been introduced into the pupillage section. In circumstances where it will be possible to spend the whole of the second six months pupillage with a solicitor or an EU lawyer, it will be the rule that the solicitor or EU lawyer should be a person of equivalent qualifications and experience to those required of pupil-masters. Also the criteria for being registered and for acting as a pupil-master have been refined.
Other amendments, of a minor nature, to the Code and the Consolidated Regulations, were also approved, so as to implement the EU Establishment Directive.
2. Report of the Working Group to Review Bar Council Representation
The Chairman explained the working group chaired by Lord Alexander of Weedon QC had been established last autumn, with a membership drawn from across the Bar, The report which they produced was unanimous; this was a tribute to the membership and to the skills of Lord Alexander himself.
In broad terms, independent barristers and employed barristers should be represented in proportion to their numbers. According to the Alexander report, there would be 113 ordinary members of the Bar Council plus 6 co-opted members, making a total of 119 that equaled the present total of 115 ordinary members plus 4 co-opted ones. It is proposed that the cut-off point for defining young barristers should be ten rather than seven years Call.
He commended the proposals as an elegant solution to a long-standing problem. However, he did not suggest, that the Council should take a vote immediately on this. He asked for any amendments to be sent to the Chief Executive not later than 28 April 2000 so that the proposals could be debated and a vote taken at the May meeting,
The accounts for the year ended 31 December 1999 were approved. As from 1 January 2001, subscriptions for all practitioners (independent and employed) will become compulsory.
4. Lay Commissioner
Michael Scott CB CBE DSO, Complaints Commissioner to the Bar Council, presented his Annual Report to the Council.