The Chair of the Bar sought a public clarification from a senior judge over comments he made about the legal profession’s response to piloting extended court sittings.
Lord Justice Fulford, the judge in charge of reform, wrote a letter to ‘demystify’ plans for the pilots, which are due to start at six courts in the autumn, in light of what he termed ‘public comments – particularly from members of the legal profession’.
He said: ‘I regret the extent of the widely broadcast misunderstandings and ill-informed comments from a range of sources’. Responding to critics, Fulford said the scheme ‘is not a disguised attempt to persuade, or force… legal professionals and others to spend more time at court’.
He acknowledged the Bar’s concerns over the scheme’s practicality and impact on diversity and said: ‘If it works, it works; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.’ He stressed that a ‘detrimental impact on diversity… is not a price the judges are willing to pay’.
Responding, Bar Chair, Andrew Langdon QC, acknowledged there had been misunderstandings, but said that was because the consultation lacked detailed proposals about the scheme, which had been developed in a ‘somewhat piecemeal fashion’.
Langdon said: ‘I hope you did not mean implicitly to criticise the Bar Council… in raising these concerns, and doing so vocally and vehemently.’
He asked: ‘I wonder if, on reflection, you would be prepared, publicly, to make it clear that you did not mean to suggest that the Bar leaders who have been grappling with this had been ill-informed or misunderstood?’