The Criminal Bar Association has said it will support barristers who decide not to take part in the government’s controversial flexible courts scheme.
In his weekly message today, CBA chair Francis FitzGibbon QC says it will back any members who choose not to participate, or who do so and run into difficulty.
‘The CBA reminds advocates that to the extent that the pilot scheme is voluntary, no one can be made to participate in it,’ FitzGibbon wrote. ‘There may be pressure on more junior barristers to take part: we will be there for you,’ he added.
FitzGibbon said the flexible courts scheme was discussed by the CBA’s executive committee last week where it was made clear that the plans are ’fundamentally flawed’ and lack support from advocates.
He added that gender equality at the bar will be stifled. A female barrister with a child wrote to FitzGibbon to tell him she would not be participating in the pilot scheme. ‘Our youngest daughter is four, and will need childcare either side of school for some years to come. For me and people like me there is nothing to be gained from participation in the pilot. We would just be paying extra childcare costs in order to hasten our own departure from the profession,’ the barrister, who has not been named, wrote.
‘This barrister is not alone – she speaks for anyone with care responsibilities for the young, or the old, or the sick, and who cannot begin to afford ‘flexible’ paid care to fit the ‘flexible operating hours. The brute fact is that people like her will be driven out of a profession that already loses far too many talented women,’ FitzGibbon said.
HM Courts and Tribunal Service restated its commitment to testing late night and early morning court cases last week.
A pilot will take place over six months from this autumn. Six courts have been selected for the trial, which was put forward as an idea in March before the testing was delayed by the general election.