Criminal justice pulses all around us. It flows through society and binds us as we look to it for remedies in times of crisis.

Some cases grab public attention, whether through repulsion, empathy, horror, or fascination. There can be a compulsion not to look away as we try and understand the inexplicable. A recent example was Lucy Letby. She is the young woman with the nursery rhyme name, who started as a nurse to babies who were hanging onto life by a fragile touch. She ended her nursing story as Britain’s most prolific serial killer of children. She then refused to attend court to hear her sentence pronounced, inevitably a whole life tariff, and listen to the victim impact statements of the families of the murdered babies. The government quickly pronounced that it would give judges powers to force prisoners into court. I then was engaged in media interviews, alongside my colleagues, explaining the high risk of using force on prisoners. High risk physically to those around that person, as well as disruption to proceedings. Dangers were acutely and terribly highlighted in 2015 when a prisoner escort officer died after being attacked by a defendant at Blackfriars Crown Court in London. The court may long have been shuttered behind blank boarding, itself a victim to myopic court estate management, but its lessons should not sink into the dark emptiness.

When I became Chair of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) on 1 September 2022, I wanted to put barristers’ voices back at the centre of policy decision-making. We are the experts in criminal justice and process and, increasingly, we had been side-lined. We were being ignored in favour of lobbying groups. The CBA also was acutely aware of the drop in barristers practising criminal law, demoralised by the crumbling courts, long and invasive working hours and cuts to legal aid. We needed to retain our junior Bar for the future of the criminal justice system. How to do it? Fees was just part of the answer. Positive communication remains key.

Criminal Justice Matters became the name of our new podcast series. I interviewed all our guests, except in the first episode when I was interviewed by Laurie-Anne Power KC. In ‘Strike action’ I discuss the negotiations with the Ministry of Justice that ended criminal barristers’ indefinite action, opened with former Lord Chancellor Brandon Lewis MP within three days of his coming into office and in my first week as Chair. It is a shake-down of happenings in those early months. I also speak a little about my own uneven path to the Criminal Bar and why I stayed.

The second episode, ‘Young barristers at the Criminal Bar’, showcases the stories of the Chair of the CBA Young Bar Committee, Zayd Ahmed and junior barrister Jennifer Devans-Tamakloe. Both barristers are from ethnic minorities and Zayd practises from chambers in London, while Jennifer is a barrister in Manchester.

In the third episode, I interview Mary Prior KC, Vice-Chair of the CBA, who practises in the Midlands, about prosecuting sexual offences. We seek to bust a few myths along the way.

The final three episodes focus on the stars and trailblazers of the Criminal Bar: Jeremy Dein KC, Nina Grahame KC, Jaime Hamilton KC, Laurie-Anne Power KC and Courtenay Griffiths KC. We pick over some of the challenges as they pivoted to advise their younger selves. These later recordings are signposts to a rewarding professional life that continues to burn bright as the years gather.

All the stories are the story of the Criminal Bar. After all, criminal justice matters. 

Criminal Justice Matters is available on all good podcast platforms including Apple and Google.