Plans to extend court sittings will disadvantage parents and affect women the most, the Bar Council has warned.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) announced a pilot initiative to introduce extra sittings at six courts, for six months from May. Crown courts will be open until 6pm, civil courts until 7pm and magistrates’ courts until 8.30pm.
Chairman of the Bar, Andrew Langdon QC, said: ‘These arrangements will make it almost impossible for parents with childcare responsibilities to predict if they can make the school run or to know when they will be able to pick children up from the child-minders. The biggest impact will be on women.’
He said: ‘Childcare responsibilities still fall disproportionately to women, many of whom do not return to the profession after having children. It is hard to see how these plans sit with the government’s commitment to improving diversity in the profession and the judiciary.’
Measures, he said, were needed to help women stay in the profession, rather than making it even more difficult to be a mother and a barrister at the same time.
Langdon said the plans also fail to take account of rules that self-employed barristers must follow when organising their work. He urged HMCTS to ensure that the impact on parents, and women in particular, is built into the evaluation criteria used to test the success of the pilots.