Message from the PIBA Chair: 20 April 2020
I recognise that these will be difficult times for many of us. I am writing to bring you up to date with what PIBA is doing.
1. We have been in touch with DCJs for two reasons.
(a) The first is to try to find out whether there is a consistent picture nationally of how the courts are approaching PI work during this period of lockdown. The short answer is that there is not. We have had encouraging responses from some DCJs (particularly those on the Northern and North Eastern Circuits) indicating that they are trying to carry on with as much work as possible and to work with the Bar and Solicitors in continuing to list hearings. Other courts are doing what they can, but many are limited by resources, perhaps do not have such a cohesive core group of court users, or are unable to be as efficiently organised. Some courts appear able to do very little at present. We are collating the various local guidance documents, protocols and practice directions which we can obtain on our website here:
http://www.piba.org.uk/covid_guidance. You'll also find there Master Fontaine's Guidance. Please continue to give us feedback through the PIBA circuit reps.
(b) The second is to encourage them to keep as many PI hearings listed and effective as can fairly and properly be achieved. The most recent message from the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls in this regard is on the PIBA Covid Guidance page and can also be found here. PIBA is carefully watching developments in those courts which are most advanced in continuing to work. Some are managing to list applications, CCMCs and Stage 3 hearings by telephone, albeit with longer time estimates and fewer hearings listed each day. As advocates we know that those attempts will bear fruit only if we assist in preparation (including ensuring that there is a helpful and concise pdf bundle for the court) and tailor our advocacy appropriately. If those attempts are successful, we will encourage other DCJs to adopt that approach. We don’t see that a blanket adjournment of, for example, all CCMCs should be necessary. Further, we know that pilot schemes in Manchester and other places hope to have trials of appropriate fast track cases by video link. Those will require further and different skills from us, and much closer co-operation between parties and with courts to make them successful, but I am sure they can be. We will keep you informed of their progress and, if they work, will encourage other courts to adopt the same approach. Some chambers are putting together demonstrations on how to run a video trial - we will share them with you when we can. Our webinar on paperless working is a useful resource: http://www.piba.org.uk/paperless_working
2. The Barristers’ Benevolent Association and the Inns of Court have set up an emergency hardship fund and an appeal for donations. The link to the appeal is here: https://www.the-bba.com/covid19-appeal-donations. PIBA itself has used some of the money saved by being forced to cancel the Annual Conference to make a donation. I would encourage all PIBA members to consider doing so, if you are able. The BBA exists to benefit all barristers who need it - if you need its help, the link is here: https://www.the-bba.com/covid19-appeal-applications
3. The next in our excellent series of continuing education webinars will be this Wednesday, 22 April, at 4pm and will be Jayne Adams QC giving a quantum update. Jayne has kindly agreed to do a webinar of the talk which she would otherwise have delivered at our Annual Conference. Details of how to join the webinar will be circulated by email and will be on the PIBA website here.
4. We are still planning events for after what we hope will be the end of the lockdown, including our Annual Lecture, Northern Circuit conference and London Winter conference later this year, and our Annual Weekend Conference in Oxford next Spring. By way of advance warning, the dates for that will be 26-28 March 2021. Easter is early next year, and that is the weekend before Easter, but is the only one which St Catherine’s can give us. Please be aware of the dates if booking holidays.
5. The Court of Appeal are due to hear the adjourned Swift v Carpenter appeal (on accommodation costs) by video link in the week commencing 22nd June.
6. Finally, a reminder about the Ministry of Justice advert of vacancies on the CPRC which we alerted you to on 15th April. It would be good to have PIBA members on that committee. Applications close at noon on 28th April.
Steven Snowden QC
Chair of PIBA