So-called ‘hot courting’ is delaying trials and fuelling job insecurity for barristers, the criminal bar has warned. Caroline Goodwin QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said that the practice of different judges using the same courtroom back-to-back has caused backlogs of cases - just for the sake of ‘saving electric’.
In her weekly message to members, Goodwin wrote that the ‘logistical penny pinching’ measure means that witnesses and jurors are kept waiting and trials take longer. ‘The answer is investment in the whole of the justice system. The switching off of a few lights is saving nothing,’ she said.
Criminal barristers are also affected by the hot courting system, Goodwin argued. ‘Exactly how is counsel expected to make a living? … Financial planning is torn apart. Any improvement in fees is obliterated by the unfair and unpredictable way listing is having to operate.’
She added: ‘Being out of court in this way has nothing whatsoever to do with the vagaries of being at the self-employed bar. Fair competition yes, having the rug pulled out from under your feet, no.’
The CBA is currently in discussions the Crown Prosecution Service over prosecution fees and an update is due to be published soon, following a meeting this week. In the summer criminal barristers decided to call off strike action over pay after the CBA struck a deal with the CPS and the Ministry of Justice.