Access to Justice

The 2009 Conference promises to be accessible, and of interest, to all members of the Bar, says Fiona Jackson.

On 7 November the 24th Annual Bar Conference will consider as its theme “Access to Justice — Justice for All?”. To answer the perennial question “Why should I go?”, key reasons this year include:

  • A programme including a broad range of workshops debating core issues affecting the whole profession and the justice system. Barristers practising in all areas will find sessions directly relevant to them
  • Prestigious and expert speakers considering Access to Justice issues at home and abroad
  • What better way to earn at least six CPD points and network with colleagues? There are also free and discounted places, online booking and free childcare facilities available

The Organising Board is ever-conscious that in these challenging times we must work hard to ensure that the conference is as accessible as possible to all members of the Bar.

Thanks to generous sponsorship by Specialist Bar Associations (“SBAs”) and Circuits, ticket prices have been frozen at the same level for the fourth consecutive year and early bird, loyalty and group booking discounts enable barristers to save up to 30 per cent. In addition many SBAs and Circuits are offering free and subsidised places to their members, and grants offered by the Bar Scholarship Trust will guarantee that 50 pupils can attend the conference for only £25 each.

All members of the Bar have been mailed a copy of the Preliminary Programme, but constant updates to speakers and workshops are placed on the conference website: you can download the latest programme, check free and discounted ticket offers, book online and submit questions for the Open Forum panel at www.barcouncil.org.uk/news/barconference2009.

In another new initiative and in response to feedback from the Bar, this year we offer free childcare facilities for children of delegates, subject to demand and to assist everyone to attend the conference. The Bar Council is covering the cost of professional childcare. Again, more details and an information sheet are available on the conference website.

Please make the most of these initiatives and come to join the debate on Access to Justice from the Bar’s perspective. We look forward to seeing you there.

The Programme and Speakers

We are delighted that Sir Nicolas Bratza will be the Keynote Speaker. A Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights and one of the most senior and respected legal figures in Europe, Sir Nicolas will provide the conference with a memorable kick-off. The day will conclude with our ever popular Open Forum. Daniel Sandford (the BBC’s Home Affairs Correspondent) will moderate a debate on Access to Justice issues between a high-profile panel including Jonathan Faull (Director General of Justice, Freedom and Security at the European Commission), Dominic Grieve QC MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Justice), Lord Carlile of Berriew QC (the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and President of the Howard League for Penal Reform), and Diane Abbott MP (MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington).

There are sessions throughout the conference which will allow everyone to participate in a wide variety of workshops designed to educate and update on the latest legal developments. The box below focuses on three particular workshops, but SBAs and Circuits are ensuring that senior members of the judiciary, public figures and pre-eminent barristers will consider topics including mediation and direct access; the Commercial Court; the implications for community access to justice in the light of funding cuts, costs reviews and procedural reforms; justice for witnesses and the victims of crime; cultural practices resulting in injustices for victims; pro bono work; human rights courts throughout the world; and access to the profession and to judicial appointments.

“Justice for Witnesses and the Victims of Crime”

The CBA’s Director of Education Jeremy Dein QC brings together Sara Payne (the government-appointed “Victim’s Champion”), Professor Jennifer Zedalis (Director of Trial Practice at the University of Florida), former First Senior Treasury Counsel Mark Ellison QC and new Chairman of the CBA Paul Mendelle QC to consider the role of witnesses and victims of crime within the criminal justice system. Considering best practice and balancing the rights of defendants with those of victims and witnesses, this distinguished panel will encourage an interactive forum on the mechanics and techniques of ensuring fair access to justice for all.

“Is Mediation an Opportunity that the Civil Justice System Has Missed?”

His Honour Judge Chambers QC (Mercantile Judge for Wales), Alan Fisher of Fisher Scoggins LLP, Lesley Anderson QC and Bill Wood QC join the panel in the ADR Committee’s workshop to stimulate debate on the impact of mediation in the civil justice system. Examining the pros and cons of mediation and whether proper use is being made of ADR, the panel will present a range of views and consider whether mediation should even be made compulsory.

“Access to Justice in the Commercial Court”

COMBAR’s interactive roundtable discussion led by Christopher Hancock QC will unite Aikens LJ and Andrew Smith J on an eminent panel with Graham Huntley (of the London Solicitors Litigation Association and a partner at Lovells), Peter Leaver QC (Chairman of the London Court of International Arbitration) and Robin Knowles CBE QC (Chairman of the Bar Pro Bono Committee) to explore the potential to improve access to justice and equality of arms in the Commercial Court, including consideration of arbitration, contingency fees, pro bono work and the recommendations of the Commercial Court Long Trials Working Party.

Fiona Jackson, Chairwoman, Bar Conference

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