PLANS TO EXTEND COURT ROOM SITTINGS A BLOW FOR WOMEN AT THE BAR
28 March 2017
Parent barristers, especially women, will be disadvantaged by
HMCTS proposals for Courts to start earlier and finish later, the
Bar Council has said adding that the plans do not take account of
rules that self-employed barristers must follow when organising
A new pilot scheme will introduce extra sittings at Civil, Crown
and Magistrates' Courts to increase the number of cases they see
each day with the Crown Court sitting until 18.00, Civil Courts
until 19.00 and Magistrates until 20.30.
Chairman of the Bar, Andrew Langdon QC, said:
"These arrangements will make it almost impossible for parents with
childcare responsibilities to predict if they can make the school
run or to know when they will be able to pick children up from the
child-minders. The biggest impact will be on women."
"Childcare responsibilities still fall disproportionately to
women, many of whom do not return to the profession after having
children. It is hard to see how these plans sit with the
Government's commitment to improving diversity in the profession
and the judiciary.
"The profession and the judiciary must reflect the communities
they serve. We need measures that will help women stay in the
profession, rather than make it even more difficult to be a mother
and a barrister at the same time."
HMCTS have said that increasing the number of court sittings
will not automatically require barristers to spend more time in
court, but there is no mechanism in the plans to prevent a
barrister being listed in both or all three sessions on the same
day, finishing as late as 20.30.
Under the Cab-Rank rule, barristers must accept any appropriate
instructions, but they will not know until a case is listed whether
it will be an early start or a late finish, and they cannot
withdraw from a case on the grounds that it clashes with childcare
The Bar Council urges HMCTS to ensure that the impact on
parents, and women in particular, is built into the evaluation
criteria used to test the success of the pilots.
Notes to Editors
Further information is available from the Bar Council Press
Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.
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The General Council of the Bar is the Approved
Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its
regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards