The Criminal Bar Association is to demand more financial support from the Treasury, following predictions that virtual jury trials are a ‘long, long way away’.
Caroline Goodwin QC, chair of the CBA, said the association is preparing a long paper to submit to HM Treasury asking for more funding. The Gazette understands the document will focus on the survival of chambers and the impact of coronavirus on junior barristers.
In her weekly video message to members, Goodwin said: ‘We are going to need help if trials are not going to be operational. We have been subject of cuts and in many ways the government has to help us shoulder the burden…We simply don’t have the reserves to ensure we can function beyond anything like a longer time frame than we would ordinarily have.’
Goodwin predicted that remote jury trials are still a ‘long, long way away’ in spite of ostensibly successful experimental schemes. ‘Let us not run before we can walk. Simply because we think we have the technology does not mean to say we must rush to use it at every opportunity and often in circumstances where it is simply not merited,’ she said, stressing that justice must not be compromised.
The CBA announced last month that the Crown Prosecution Service will pay barristers £500 upfront to reduce the impact of coronavirus on the criminal bar. The association is also in discussions with the Legal Aid Agency and the Ministry of Justice about hardship funds.
A Bar Council survey suggested that 90% criminal of chambers could fold after 12 months if the pandemic persists. According to the study, at least 60% are already furloughing clerks and other staff.