Lord Chief Justice: Non-attendance at court by members of the Bar

Lord Burnett of MaldonLord Chief JusticeNews

The judiciary is not a party to the dispute between the Criminal Bar Association (the CBA) and the Government and will not enter into the substance of the dispute.

The function of the judiciary is to uphold the rule of law and to protect the administration of justice. The court must have regard to the interests of all those concerned in criminal trials, including complainants, defendants and witnesses, as well as to the interests of the public more generally.

Cases in which a communication is received from any member of the Bar that they will not be attending at court because of the CBA’s “days of action” should remain listed. This applies to forthcoming trials and hearings, and trials that are currently being heard. Judges should seek an explanation in open court as to the current position. If an instructed barrister does not attend, the judge should ask the defendant, if present, whether they have discussed the matter with their barrister and whether they have agreed to their barrister’s non-attendance. It will be a matter for the CPS in each case, to decide whether to make an application for wasted costs.

A failure to attend at court, having accepted instructions, may amount to professional misconduct. The CBA itself has indicated in its communications to its members, that once a barrister has accepted instructions, their personal professional duties and obligations “apply in the usual way”.

All cases in which there is non-attendance should be referred to the Senior Presiding Judge’s Office to consider whether to involve the Bar Standards Board. The question whether a failure to attend amounts to professional misconduct, will then be a matter for any disciplinary process.

Lord Burnett of Maldon
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales