The outgoing chair of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has criticised the senior judiciary for neglecting barristers’ wellbeing and preserving an environment that is ‘needlessly hostile to diversity and family life’.
In his final message to CBA members, Chris Henley QC wrote: ‘It’s disappointing that the very modest requests for sensible email and sitting hours protocols, made both by the Bar Council and CBA, have so far been ignored.
‘I have reluctantly concluded that we will have to wait for fresh blood at the top before we get the leadership on wellbeing issues we need and deserve.’
Henley referred to guidance issued by the Central Family Court, which says that listed hearings should not take place before 10am or after 4.30pm, that courts should rise for an hour between 1pm and 2pm to give time for lunch, and that barristers are not obliged to reply to emails after 6pm.
He described the guidance as a ‘shining example of what can be said and done’ and lamented that ‘until such leadership is brought to bear in the criminal courts an environment, needlessly hostile to diversity and family life, will persist.’
In an earlier message to members, Henley wrote: ‘The sad truth is that your wellbeing is not being prioritised. It is not being respected. It does not appear to matter sufficiently to those with authority over the criminal courts.’
Caroline Goodwin QC will replace Henley as CBA chair on 1 September and James Mulholland QC will take over from Goodwin as vice chair.