Message from the Chair - 21 December 2020


This is not a normal Christmas email or end of term letter, but I do want to bring you up to date with what PIBA has done as 2020 draws to a close and what we will be doing in 2021.

We have not yet completely abandoned hope of keeping our Annual Conference as an in-person event in Oxford, over the weekend of 27th and 28th March 2021, but we are holding lightly to that prospect.  We have a terrific line-up of speakers in place and, if regulations relax significantly and vaccination becomes widespread, I would dearly like to return to holding the event in person.  I’ve missed the weekend of meeting friends, colleagues and opponents, learning together and enjoying each other’s company.  If it can’t happen in person, we will roll out as many of the sessions as possible remotely, as we did this year.

We have had a year of online continuing education seminars of astonishing quality and quantity.  Thanks are due to all our speakers and to those who devoted so many hours behind the scenes to setting them up and running them.  Our Annual Richard Davies Lecture, given in November by Justice Basten, is now available on our web pages in video form, as is the text of his lecture.  We are very grateful to him.  Do look at the PIBA webpage and watch out for emails about our seminars in 2021.

Our most recent seminar was given by Russell Wallman of Queen’s Counsel Appointments, and I hope you will find what he said about the application process helpful.  We continue in dialogue with QCA to help them understand what their standard of excellence looks like, in real terms, in our area of practice.

On that subject, commiserations to those who were unsuccessful in this year’s competition but huge congratulations go to James Arney, Judith Ayling, John Coughlan, Andrew Davis, Emily Formby, Farrah Mauladad, Nick Moss, Rachel Vickers, Paddy Vincent and Angus Withington - all of whom are PIBA members who were successful this year and will take silk in 2021.  Apologies if I have missed out any other PIBA members.

PIBA have tried to work with the Bar Council this year through all the effects of covid and lockdowns.  Derek Sweeting QC, a former member of the PIBA EC, takes up the reins as Chair of the Bar for 2021.  We wish him well and look forward to working closely with him.  High on our agenda for next year will be trying to get the level of fees for FT and similar hearing, which were set years ago, raised for inflation and index-linked going forwards.  Also trying get some recognition of abated brief fees and aborted hearing costs within the fixed fee regime.  And continuing to feed back about what is working well or badly about remote hearings.  And keeping an eye on how extended or flexible operating hours are deployed in response to covid backlogs, while opposing them in principle as a way of working in the future.

PIBA’s Honorary President, Sir Stephen Irwin, has retired from the Court of Appeal this year.  His outstanding career at the Bar and on the Bench came to a fitting end with his ground-breaking judgment in Swift v Carpenter.  We wish him well in his retirement and are grateful that he has agreed, pro tem, to remain our Honorary President.  One of our Honorary Vice-Presidents, Edis J, has been elevated to the Court of Appeal in his place and we wish him every joy and success there.  We are delighted also to see that Siobhan Kelly, a former member of the PIBA EC, has been appointed as a Specialist Civil Judge in Leeds.

PIBA simply wouldn’t work as a Specialist Bar Association without the hours which are put in by EC members and other volunteers, and we are indebted to them all.

I hope you have as good a Christmas and New Year as is possible this year, and look forward to meeting when we can next year.

Kind regards

Steven Snowden QC

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