Well, with the Northern Circuit having a mass meeting to discuss BVT on Monday, we have finally had something from the South Eastern Circuit. I’ve cut and paste the email below :
Many of you will know that the Northern Circuit are intending to hold a meeting during court hours on Monday 22nd April (the day before the Circuit Leaders are due to meet the Secretary of State for Justice).
This Circuit is too large and too unwieldy to stage such an event at short notice and without proper planning.
1. It runs the risk of appearing shambolic and lacking in proper unity if not all engage. We are not 400 on this Circuit – we are thousands.
2. There is no media strategy in place in the event that defendants are left unrepresented or sensitive prosecutions adjourned and we would play into the hands of the MoJ whose publicity campaign is sophisticated.
3. In my judgement, it is too early to be deliberately obstructing court hearings on the sort of scale we would in the south east. The perception will be that the meeting amounts to industrial action at a time when we should be responding to a consultation (however unlikely it is that the MoJ will heed our responses).
4. Any such action requires focus. Eg. If it is aimed at the introduction of PCT at police station / magistrates court level, then are solicitors joining?
5. On this circuit there are hundreds of courts. And judges. Some will be sympathetic. Some not. Wasted costs orders are a risk many of us might take. But they would translate in the press as something of an own goal.
There will be a meeting of the South Eastern Circuit. It will be planned and well-organised. It will take place on Saturday 18th May 2013 (the earliest available date for a hall large enough), at 11am in London and we will confirm the venue on Monday. There will be video conferencing facilities available for those truly unable to attend – but I would like to see a huge turn-out from members in all areas of practice on this Circuit. The dismantling of the independent Bar in publicly funded crime will affect the entire Bar. This is your chance to show solidarity to your Circuit and to underline what a powerful organisation it is.
I shall be looking to include representatives from the other branch of the profession, the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks, Victim Support and any members of the circuit judiciary who wish to attend. A media strategy will be in place. The purpose of the meeting will be to inform, to discuss developments, to hear from our consultation paper response committee and to demonstrate to the MoJ and to the public the strength of opinion, the true reasons for it and the unity within the profession. It will be held in advance of any consideration of our responses to the consultation paper is.
Further details will emailed to you nearer the time.
Please ALL attend.
If I may, just this:-
We are all angry. We fear, not just for ourselves and the future of our profession, but for the criminal justice system in which we play a crucial part. But we are advocates. We are best placed to deploy well-reasoned arguments cogently and forcefully to achieve recognition of what is at risk. We should be focussing on our responses to the consultation. Meantime we must continue all efforts to get our message out to the public. (To that end, I have a plan. I will tell you more when and if I can get it off the ground.)
If those arguments continue to fall on deaf ears then we will need to consider what alternative steps we are prepared to take to re-inforce our message.
The Circuit Leaders are due to meet the Secretary of State for Justice on 23rd April.
Finally, rest assured that I am working night and day to achieve what I can. Please understand if I cannot immediately respond to all your messages and emails. I am personally no fan of Twitter. But there will be a SEC Twitter account shortly. The manager of that account will remain anonymous. It will not provide a forum for personal abuse or chat. Its purpose is to inform you of events as they develop in between my newsletters that I shall reserve for the most important developments.
Sarah Forshaw QC
Leader, South Eastern Circuit