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Bar Council: Mark Fenhalls QC inaugural speech

Bar Council | Bar Council

3 min read Partner content

Mark Fenhalls QC, Chair-Elect of the Bar Council, inaugural speech.

At the Honourable Society of Gray's Inn tonight, Mark Fenhalls QC, presented his inaugural speech as the Chair-Elect of the Bar Council.

He covered a range of topics including culture, regulation, court capacity and backlogs, diversity, and international issues.

Mark Fenhalls QC suggested reforms linked to the criminal jurisdiction should include a plan for the proper refurbishment of the court estate, additional investment to offer all crown court cases a trial date within six months of first appearance, and to "Pay barristers who work in the criminal courts a reasonable rate for the work they do. And stop requiring them to do huge amounts of work for nothing".

He added:

"The Bar Council acknowledged the [Government's] increased budget announcement, but it remains to be seen how the final settlement is structured and how money will be spent. Even if the figures prove to be accurate, I fear it will take more sustained investment to reverse the effects of decline that a decade of cuts have inflicted on the health of the justice system."

"The backlog is not just much bigger than it was before; the extra problem we face is that the composition of the backlog is far more challenging, as the proportion of complex and difficult, often multi-defendant, trials has increased."

"We owe our pupils and junior tenants a duty to think again about their training, and how we support them in their early years. Many of us have done our best to help our recent intakes with WhatsApp groups and the like; but it is just not as good. We must ask ourselves how we can recreate that sense of chambers where you could walk in, find people, and knock on any open door."  

"For many years I thought the right thing to do as a well-meaning, liberal, privileged white male was to be colour blind and treat everyone equally. To say nothing and almost disregard the question of race. I now believe I was wrong... In 2022 I will do everything I can to continue to drive this action forward and promote greater diversity at the Bar."

"The Bar of England and Wales is known and respected for its huge contribution to a multitude of European law projects, including those in competition law, company law, human rights as well as in many other fields. That reputation for offering a world class service should not be lost. It is a source of wealth and influence for our country."

"It does not take much imagination to see that a profession burdened by the stresses and strains of the last few years might be less than enthusiastic about increases in regulatory costs unless there is a reasonable and objective justification."

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