Like the calm before the latest legal aid storm, all is fairly quiet in Central London. Getting out just before the next round of cuts, the Mess would like to send its best wishes and thanks to firm favourite (and stalwart of all drinks parties) David Tomlinson. His Honour Judge Tomlinson, as he is now, said goodbye to Bar and friends at a glittering party in Inner Temple, attended by those of the highest and lowest standing and stature. We can only assume his partiality to the Circuit is the reason he has been appointed to sit in Birmingham.
On another note, we continue to keep an eye on courts where large number of floaters are listed with little or no prospect of them being called - always a difficult balance for Resident Judges and Court Managers, but they are listening.
Hot off the press: Building works at Woolwich Crown Court dictate that, for the next 8 months, car parking facilities at the rather remote Belmarsh will be severely restricted. We are invited to use public transport. Or walk. Joy… Prendergast
It’s been all change in Kent with a number of retirements and arrivals since our last report. So in Canterbury it’s farewell to HHJ Nash. We shall miss his cheerful good humour and references to “Over the hill slappers”, the failings of the Home Office and Canterbury’s inadequate heating/cooling systems. Farewell too to HHJ Webb. There are several individuals at the Bar and on the Bench who still can’t sleep properly because of His Honour’s striptease during his leaving ceremony…
On the plus side, HHJ James has joined us, to remind us all what we could have achieved if we had applied ourselves when younger! By the time you read this we will have said goodbye to HHJ Patience QC as Resident Judge at Maidstone. Our best wishes to HHJ Carey assuming the role of Resident. We also bid a fond farewell to Caroline Knight, a valued supporter of the Mess, who has decided to retire from the hurly burly to enjoy a more peaceful and, we hope, relaxing lifestyle, although we know she’ll never be far away.
In these days of Continuing Professional Development we are pleased to thank HHJ St John Stevens for his illuminating seminar and demonstration on the use of technology in the courtroom (quite an eye-opener for those of us still struggling with using a mobile phone!). We hope that the Mess will, with the assistance of the Bench and others, be able to continue to educate, inform and entertain; as well as chalking up some free CPD points and sharing some wine and nibbles!
The inaugural Kent Bar Mess v Court Cavaliers cricket match at Lenham Cricket Club resulted in a close-run game, with victory to the Mess. It was a useful warm up for the forthcoming match against our brothers (and sisters) in law of the Sussex Mess on the 5th September.
Finally, we are all waiting, with some trepidation, for the formal launch of the Kent Bar Mess website (http://www.kentbarmess.org) and the dawn of a brave new world of email and the information superhighway. To infinity and beyond! Ian Victa
CAMBRIDGE & PETERBOROUGH
We understand Cambridgeshire’s Chief Crown Prosecutor, Richard Crowley, is off to Leicester: congratulations. Frank Ferguson is replacing him, but we understand his title won’t be so grand, yet. Massive cuts in CPS budgets suggest there will be a general reduction of senior posts through “natural wastage” as departing staff are not replaced. We expect huge stresses on those who remain.
HHJ Neil McKittrick retires at the end of the year; the Bar will be sorry to see him go. We await his successor with bated breath.
Procure Co is beginning to emerge as a real topic of discussion between the Bar and Solicitors, our correspondent suggests there may be significant developments in the next 6 months.
On a less portentous note, our second mock trial for local schools in Cambridge Crown Court was a great success. Thanks go to all members of the Bar who acted as mentors for the Marshall Halls of tomorrow and particularly to Sally Hobson the instigator of the event. Drained Fen
Laureen Fleischman died in June. She fought cancer with enormous courage but had to concede in the end. She was a formidable character, both in court and out, she never missed a Mess dinner and was always the best of companions. We who knew her will miss her dreadfully and the courts in Chelmsford and Basildon will forever seem a little duller following her passing. The Mess was able to send her flowers and words of support and love during her last days and she responded in typically feisty fashion. May she rest in peace.
We raised a number of glasses to Laureen’s memory at a wonderful dinner held later in June to mark the retirement of two Essex Judges – Michael Brooke and Peter Dedman. We met at the Haberdasher’s Hall in Smithfield – an inspired choice by Jackie Carey, where the food and fellowship was first class. It was a particular pleasure to welcome Mr Justice Bean, the senior Presider who is coming to end of a distinguished spell in that role. We also welcomed our splendid Leader who again displayed the Leslie tartan with his usual aplomb. We wish both retirees the happiest of times ahead.
What those times hold for the Essex Bar and Bench is a matter of some speculation what with threatened cuts and new business structures, but we can depend upon the usual suspects to keep the courts busy and who better to prosecute and defend the Essex reprobates than the members of this fine Mess that we have got ourselves into. Onward and upward! Billericay Dickie
The Mess hosted an excellent dinner at the Reform Club on 4 March for the Presiding and Resident Judges and a few others. We were particularly honoured that Penry-Davey J jetted back down from Hull, where he had been sitting, to join us and say grace.
By the time The Circuiteer reaches you, up-to-date antecedents will no longer be required in Court 4 at Inner London. After 18 years on the bench, Judge Nicholas Philpot will hang up his wig. He will be joined in June by Judge Charles Gibson, who also sat at Lambeth County Court. Sticking with Inner London, the refurbishment of the Mess (well, new lino by the serving counter and a lick of paint) will be finished by the end of April, having taken a mere 6 months to complete.
Many more of us will be in a position to enjoy the scenic walk from Plumstead Station to Belmarsh in the future, as it looks increasingly likely the car park at Woolwich Crown Court is to be reduced in size for the provision of four ‘Portakabin’ temporary courts to cover the predicted influx of work from the Olympics. Given the longevity of the ‘temporary’ chocolate box courts at Inner London (nearly 30 years) we can safely say that they will be a fixture for some time to come.
Though not strictly one of the Central London Bar Mess courts, we have been involved in the pilot scheme for split shift court sittings at Croydon Crown Court. The idea is two trials can take place in one court in a day in order to reduce the backlog of trials in London. One will sit in the morning from 9.30am to 1.30pm, the other from 2pm to 6.30pm. Only short, straightforward trials will be used. We understand that due to their contractual arrangements, CPS in-house advocates will not be used for these trials. If it works, it may spread to our own Blackfriars. So we wait and watch. Prendergast
CAMBRIDGE & PETERBOROUGH
The Cambridge and Peterborough Bar continues to soldier on, CPS and solicitor advocates not withstanding. Our Annual Dinner appears to have been a great success, Grigson J was on form and we were able to welcome back HHJ McKittrick in his new incarnation as Resident Judge for Peterborough. He seems to have survived the savages of the Suffolk Bar more or less intact.
Fresh faces abound on the Bench: HHJ Bate in Cambridge is affability personified (How did that happen? Was he not at the Bar in Norfolk?) and in Peterborough, HHJ Enright’s cosy chats for junior members of the Bar are, we are informed, universally enjoyed.
The new court at Huntingdon continues to provide a welcome for escapees from Milton Keynes. Rumours of rain within the courtrooms are greatly exaggerated and the snug and bijou Robing Roomettes ensure a cosy atmosphere.
We look forward to the dinner for Saunders J fixed for 24 March. This dinner will start on time. Drained Fen
The daffodils are being a little slow in brightening up the approach to Basildon Crown Court, but it can only be a matter of time before spring is sprung throughout Essex. A mixture of tidings: disappointment that some of our finest advocates did not get their due rewards in the latest Silk round; maybe next year. Although with the way this once proud and remarkable profession is going, under the pressures of CPS in-house advocates on one side of the Court and HCAs on the other, perhaps its best to stay in the senior junior rank until the dust settles.
On a happier note, we welcome a new face at Chelmsford, Her Honour Judge Walden-Smith. She has entered a male bastion; the first permanent female judge at Chelmsford since records began. We wish her well, and she is by all accounts a delightful addition to the team. Her arrival confirms that we have lost HHJ Peter Fenn to Ipswich. We will miss him in Essex but wish him well up in Suffolk. And we are still missing HHJ Rupert Overbury – on the mend we hope after a ghastly spell of illness; Basildon needs its barista back soon!
Congratulations we believe are due to one Holborn: wedding bells are rumoured! And the Mess owes a huge thank you to the formidable Jackie Carey, our outgoing (!) junior who will crown a glorious three-year reign by organising a dinner, on 9 July we hope, to mark the retirement of two much loved Essex Judges, HHJ Brooke, who sets sail from Basildon before the Summer tides, and HHJ Peter Dedman, master of the County Court and the most senior Judge in the county, who is looking forward to his new career as lead trombone player in a jazz combo. We will miss them both. Come to the dinner. Tickets are available from Jackie at 2 Bedford Row. Billericay Dickie
The CLBM has been hard at work on your behalf over the past few months, representing the Circuit at negotiations over the planned ‘double-shift’ sittings, as well as the more routine meetings with the judiciary. Following an intervention by the Mess, we hope that by the time ‘Circuiteer’ goes to press the Court Service will have withdrawn their extortionate charges for receipt of faxes and photocopying in the London Courts (up to £5 for 1 page). Please let us know of any new abuses.
The mess would like to congratulate an old favourite, Phillip Shorrock, on his well-earned appointment to the bench. Phillip’s wasted no time in making his presence felt at the ‘special’ court centre that is the Crown Court at Woolwich. Other new appointments include Judges Bishop (Inner London), Peter Clarke and Frances Sheridan (Blackfriars).
The annual cocktail party is planned for late November. All are welcome, but we’d like to remind more amorous members of the Mess that suitable hotel accommodation is available nearby. We advise you to book early to avoid disappointment. Prendergast
Feeling that just one boozy get-together a year was not enough to raise the spirits during these difficult times, the Mess held a very successful drinks party at Canterbury on 9 July. Well-attended by Bench, Bar and others it may yet prove to be an annual event. Our thanks go to Judith King for organising it, and to the Resident Judge, Judge Williams, for her much-valued support.
Sadly though, the allure of cricket is less strong than that of free merlot, and this year’s Bar/Solicitors cricket match had to be cancelled, for the first time in over ten years, due to a lack of players. Often in the past the solicitors have had to recruit from beyond their profession, but this year their supply of 15 year-old prodigies appeared finally to have dried up. Hopefully England’s Ashes win will inspire them next year, whether admitted to the Roll or not. The Bar may even find some prodigies of its own.
The Circuit Roadshow hit Maidstone and it was very well attended. Our Leader spoke on many subjects including Best Value Tendering and means testing for Legal Aid in the Crown Courts. Merlot, etc was provided; we know what you like.
The annual dinner is on 27th November 2009 at Lincoln’s Inn Old Hall. The guest speaker will be HHJ Gratwicke, a luminary of first the Kent Bar and now the Essex Bench. We are delighted he has agreed to re-join us (even if for one night only), and we hope the Essex Bar will forgive a temporary return to his roots. It promises to be a great evening and application forms will be sent out soon. In the meantime further details can be obtained from the Mess Junior, c/o 5 St. Andrew’s Hill, DX 417 LDE. N. Victor
The Essex firmament has changed somewhat over the last few months: Frank Lockhart’s funeral service was packed, with the Bar and Bench well represented. His brother and Patrick Musters delivered two beautiful eulogies that managed to capture the many facets of our much missed Southend Judge. But being a Yorkshireman, he would have told us all to get on with our lives and to enjoy them so, with thanks for a life well lived and for some great memories, on to happier things. We have welcomed three new Judges to Basildon, Messrs Graham, Lodge and Saggerson. All are shaping up well; displaying good humour as well as good judgement. What more could anyone ask?
Worrying signs of falling standards up at Chelmsford: the annual Bar v Bench cricket match turned into a rout for the Bar, with HHJ Ball’s team suffering not just from a lack of hitting power but also from the absence of their captain, who had been compelled to go and pay homage at the court of Bruce Springsteen at Hyde Park rather than galvanise his troops on the greensward. It was left to the heroic HHJ Gratwicke to try and inspire the Bench team but they were trounced by a Bar XI led by Compton (Alan, that is). Our Mess chairman, John Dodd, got the catch of the match award (!) but was in danger of forfeiting it as he chose to bowl wearing a rather fetching pair of shorts. “It was like being bowled at by an American tourist” the disgruntled Gratwicke complained, as he missed yet another ball as a result of his laughing too much. Many thanks to Alan and Gayle for organising a great day and for providing a gargantuan tea.
The Mess dined Mr Justice Calvert-Smith in high summer at High Easter: a great evening, well attended and David really did sing for his supper – you had to be there!
Late news: our former Chair, Nigel Lithman QC, has just survived a parachute jump in order not to lose weight but to raise funds for charity – the Kamala community in Israel, a centre that cares for adults and children with profound special needs. Bravo Nigel. Comments, donations, etc to email@example.com. Congratulations to Valerie Charbit (and Dan of course) on the arrival of their second child, Eli. May he and they be blessed.
Wishing you well as we hunker down for the autumn stretch and hope that we can all meet to swap tales at the annual dinner which this year will be held in Brentwood on 20 November. Details can be obtained from the Junior, Jackie Carey at 2 Bedford Row. Billericay Dickie
HERTFORDSHIRE & BEDFORDSHIRE
The Early Guilty Plea Scheme at Luton Crown Court has been revised with the process now starting at Magistrates’ Court level. In cases identified as suitable, the CPS will prepare documentation to be served on the defence, who are then required to notify any disagreement within two weeks of committal or sending. Unless the defence have raised an objection, the case will then be listed for plea within 4 weeks of the Magistrates’ Court hearing.
A quiz night to be held on 27 November is being organised by the court staff at Luton Crown Court, with members of the judiciary and the bar being invited. Details can be obtained from Tom Forder at Luton Crown Court.
HHJ Gullick is now sitting at St Albans.
The Committee is considering a draft for a new Constitution. Now that the summer break is over, a draft will be finalised and a general meeting will then be held so that the Constitution can be discussed. Fred Ferguson
CENTRAL LONDON BAR MESS
All change at the CLBM: after years of loyal service to the Mess (and indeed the circuit) Joanna Korner QC, always so ably assisted by Gareth Patterson, gave way – after a hotly contested election – to circuit blondeshell, Sarah Forshaw QC. Forshaw took little time in imprisoning some of the more ‘respectable’ judiciary at the Tower of London for the CLBM annual dinner. Guests of honour included a welcome breath of fresh air from up North (Birmingham is up north, isnt it?) - The Hon Mr. Justice Saunders - who became Presider of the Circuit
(taking over from Gross J) in January of this year: very much an introductory occasion as between Saunders J and the CLBM. But we can confirm he is clearly a party animal - thoroughly good company and devoid of all airs and graces. We have no doubt he will become an essential invitee to all of the best dinners. Ex-presiding judge, The Hon Mr. Justice Penry-Davey, was also invited because we just could not permit him to fall off our guest list. And he can always be relied upon (so it seems) to respond to very last minute calls that he entertain us all with a version of Grace. Also present and on cracking form most of our resident judges: Chapple (v. late stayer), Rivlin, Byers and Collins.
Meanwhile, at Newington Causeway, genuine affection and a huge turnout was shown by the Mess at HHJ Campbell’s valedictory. Before throwing his wig into the well of the court (to be replaced by a stylish baseball cap), Quentin treated the Bar and Judges to champagne and canapés, all served by the other HHJ Campbell (from Reading) and offspring: a great sendoff for a much-loved judge.
Quite what Judge Campbell, a former solicitor, would have thought of the QAA pilot scheme at Inner London and Blackfriars may never be known… Mess members are encouraged to participate and send any constructive feedback to the Mess. firstname.lastname@example.org will ensure your views are faithfully recorded. Jonathan Polnay
CAMBRIDGE & PETERBOROUGH BAR MESS
The fast winds of change have blown through our Courts with the appointment of three new Judges, HHJ Bate in Cambridge and HHJs Enwright and Maloney in Peterborough, and the retirement of two, HHJs Sennitt and Blomfield – both much loved by all practitioners who are sorry to see their great humanity and humility leaving the Bench. HHJ Hawkesworth has been appointed Resident Judge at Cambridge, with many thanks going to HHJ Haworth (who remains in Cambridge) and who held the position for as long as many of the Juniors can remember (he oversaw the “hurrah” of the new Court building). A very successful dinner was held to recognise the retirements and new appointments – many thanks to all who attended.
New electronic “Trial Readiness Forms” are being piloted in Peterborough and have caused immense difficulties for practitioners – this is a topic of frequent discussion between practitioners and the local Judiciary … watch this space as we are told that it, or something similar, is to be rolled-out countrywide. We need to ensure that the Bar does not get told to do yet another job for no pay when there is a system of “Case Progression Officers” within the beloved Criminal Procedure Rules – at last we may find an ally in the ‘small print’?
Election fever struck: Georgina Gibbs was elected to become the 2nd Assistant Junior to the S.E. Circuit Committee – huge congratulations to ‘Georgie’ as the first member of 1 Paper Buildings whom we can recall securing such an elected post. She has already made a big impact on the Committee, being involved particularly in the drive to increase membership and regularly attending the meetings of the S.E Circuit Executive Committee. Well done to Azza Brown, who was elected to take Georgie’s place on the Mess Committee as the Junior Circuit Rep. Azza has already attended Circuit Meetings on behalf of the Mess.
Looking ahead, apart from the summer drinks party and sunny welcome to the Higher Judiciary who visit our little haven. The highlight is likely to be the mock trial which the Mess is organising with the students of a local school – thanks to HHJ Hawkesworth and the court staff for agreeing that we can use one of the court rooms. Pupils will act as counsel, witnesses, defendant, jurors and court staff. The Mess Chair will act as Judge whilst members of the Mess have agreed to act as mentors to the pupils involved. It promises to be a pretty lively occasion! Karim S. Khalil QC
SUSSEX BAR MESS
The Sussex Bar Mess Annual dinner had Judge Cedric Joseph and his wife as their guests of honour to mark the retirement of Judge Joseph from the Bench. The dinner was on the 17th April at the Hotel du Vin in Brighton. Members of the Mess, local judiciary and the Circuit Leader attended. Stephen Leslie QC proposed the toast to the Judge and we were then entertained by a reflective speech by Judge Joseph. To the credit of the Junior, the evening proved a great success and showed the continuing good relationship between the Bar and Bench in Sussex.
Two calendar dates: The Mess AGM at Westgate Chambers, Lewes at 6pm on 18 June and the Annual Garden Party this year returns to the delightful home of Judges Coates and Tanzer on Sunday 12 July. It will no doubt be the usual fun family occasion. Marcus Fletcher, Mess Junior will circulate forms soon. Please contact him if you don’t get a form, but wish to go.
Finally, we welcome Michael Lawson QC, who has now crossed the Weald to become a permanent Judge in Sussex. Jeremy Wainwright
HERTFORDSHIRE & BEDFORDSHIRE BAR MESS
Recent events have included a Quiz Night organised by the staff at Luton Crown Court which was well supported by the Bar and by local solicitors. The table including HHJ Bright QC and Andrew Jeffries QC impressed with its knowledge of nursery rhymes and Formula 1, if not the Italian language, despite having a member with Italian roots. The evening was a success, with the proceeds going to charity.
The Mess is in the process of amending its constitution and will be holding a meeting shortly to discuss and approve the draft. Fred Ferguson
KENT BAR MESS
Another year brings another turn of the judicial merry-go-round in Kent. ‘Whispering Mike’ Lawson has broken the hearts of many by leaving us for Sussex, though we are extremely fortunate that Philip ‘The Saint’ St. John-Stevens has stepped up to replace him. The Mess wishes Judge Lawson the very best on his move to the west, and congratulates Judge St. John-Stevens on an appointment richly deserved. As I write, there are rumours of other members of the Mess about to be swathed in purple though, of course, no-one will actually confirm or deny. In the meantime we avidly scan The Times Register for the judicial equivalent of papal smoke.
Congratulations go also to Alan Kent on taking silk. A man of such stature they named the county after him (well almost), we hope that his elevation to the Olympian heights will not prevent the occasional visit to Maidstone. Such was the demand for him as a prosecutor, it is said that he hasn’t defended anyone since the turn of the century; with luck he will rediscover that exquisite joy in one of our own courts, mad socks and all.
This year the Circuit Committee is planning a series of ‘roadshows’ around the courts, with Maidstone pencilled in for late July; further details will be posted in the robing rooms as they become available. One date already carved in stone is the Mess Annual Dinner on Friday 27th November, in Lincoln’s Inn Old Hall. Tickets are heavily subsidised for those under 5 year’s call; the Junior will be pleased to provide further details to those who would like them. N. Victor