Added role for Leveson
Sir Brian Leveson has been appointed as Head of Criminal Justice. He remains the President of the Queen’s Bench Division. The role, which concerns criminal justice policy and its delivery, was created by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and was previously held by the former President of the Queen’s Bench Division and Lord Chief Justice, Sir Igor Judge, and the recently retired Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas.
Pro Bono Award 2017
Tanya Murshed of 1MCB Chambers won this year’s Sydney Elland Goldsmith Bar Pro Bono Award for her outstanding commitment to assisting vulnerable individuals convicted of capital offences in Uganda over four and a half years. Kirsty Brimelow QC, Chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee, received a special commendation in recognition of her outstanding long-term contribution to human rights issues around the world.
Ethics website launched
The Bar Council launched a new website to help barristers with ethical and practice queries. The Ethics and Practice Hub, at www.barcouncilethics.co.uk, which can be used on a mobile phone or tablet, also provides materials on IT, equality and diversity, international practice and remuneration issues.
Legal aid review
The Lord Chancellor, David Lidington, announced the long-awaited review of the legal aid cuts introduced by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. In a written statement, he said it would conclude before Parliament breaks for the summer next year.
After the successful introduction of the Certificate of Recognition for good wellbeing practice, which attracted more than 30 applications, the Bar Council launched another round. Chambers, Inns, Circuits, Specialist Bar Associations and those employing barristers must apply by February 2018.
Judges on YouTube
Nine judges made a YouTube video, shot on an iPhone, to promote their work and why they do it, in a bid to promote recruitment to the High Court and encourage applications from a more diverse range of lawyers. It coincided with a High Court recruitment exercise launched by the Judicial Appointments Commission.
High Court retirement
Mr Justice Peter Smith, who has been suspended on full pay since May 2016, retired, days before he was to face a disciplinary hearing in relation to two complaints – one in relation to repeated remarks he had made about his own missing luggage during a case he was hearing involving British Airways. His retirement brings the disciplinary action to an end.
Game of Tomes
The battle over which legal text should be used in criminal courts took a turn as solicitors and barristers voted for different books. In separate polls conducted by the Criminal Bar Association and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, 75% of barristers plumped for Archbold while 55% of solicitors opted for Blackstones. The latter being the official choice made by the judges.
Prisoner vote U-turn
Prisoners sentenced to less than a year and who are let out on day release will be allowed to go home to vote, the Lord Chancellor, David Lidington, announced. The decision follows a long legal battle with the European Court of Human Rights, which has repeatedly ruled the UK’s blanket ban on giving convicted prisoners the vote breaches human rights.
Bridge not sport
The card game of bridge is not a sport because it involves ‘negligible’ physical activity, the European Court of Justice ruled. The case was brought by the English Bridge Union and the ruling means players will not be exempted from paying VAT on entry to tournaments.