A 'valuable' training day that takes place every year for part-time judges to learn from their senior colleagues has been scrapped after funding was cut, the criminal bar chief has said.
The news, revealed by Chris Henley QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, in his latest weekly update, prompted him to declare: 'Must everything in our criminal justice system be smashed to bits'.
Henley said: 'When you think that you’ve heard it all something comes along to make your jaw drop even faster and hit the floor even harder than ever.
'Each year recorders and judges come together for an annual training day. This is an incredibly valuable experience for recorders who benefit enormously from undertaking the mock exercises in small groups with experienced judges, and formally and informally learning from the years of experience the full-time judiciary has built up in abundance.
'But no more. The modest amount of money required to hold this event has been cut, so this Saturday’s gathering was the last one.
The Gazette has since learned that all circuits hold this training day. The north-eastern circuit held one in Leeds last week, which was attended by around 100 judges and recorders. Another one is being held in Newcastle this week. These will be the last.
The average cost to hold these training days is believed to be an estimated £15,000 to £20,000 a year. Many circuits hold their training sessions in court buildings during the weekend.
One senior criminal practitioner, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Gazette: 'These annual courses held across all circuits are going to be stopped. Apparently there is insufficient cash.
'The years of experience of other judges will be lost unless these sorts of essential training days are retained. There is really helpful discussion as to sentencing guidelines, approach to sentence problems, pitfalls and general approach. It is a valuable learning tool and cannot be underestimated.
'Unless there is funding, recorders will have little by way of training other than attendance at the Judicial College, which as it presently stands is attendance at Warwick once every three years for a two-day day residential course. We will simply be left without any effective training. Talk from on high about investment in the future judiciary sounds increasingly hollow.'
A spokesperson for the judiciary said: 'The provision of training for fee-paid judiciary in the courts has been the subject of a major review by the Judicial College. The resulting proposals mean that fee-paid judiciary now receive more continuation training but the circuit events referred to have been discontinued and the funds re-distributed. There is more training available in criminal, civil and family jurisdictions.
'The new Judicial College courts training scheme launched in October 2018 for the training year from 1 April 2019. New two-day annual residential seminars are now embedded in the training programme.'