17 September 2019

Blog: Monthly message from our Chair Sir Andrew Burns KCMG

Our key stories this month are about Future Bar Training and Youth Advocacy.

Our Future Bar Training consultation received a record number of responses, for which we are most grateful. Among many thoughtful responses we had detailed comments from both the Council of the Inns of Court (COIC) and the Bar Council. Over 500 barristers signed a letter in support of the model put forward by COIC and the Bar Council. Many barristers also wrote to us after the Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR) and the Chancery Bar Association asked their members to respond to the consultation. And we received 374 further substantive responses, 250 of which were from individual members of the Bar. We also received responses from other Specialist Bar Associations, special interest groups, students and pupils, academic institutions and BPTC providers, Chambers, judges and others. 

We are considering all these responses very carefully and the Board hopes to make a final decision on 23 March.

Meanwhile, we have also announced some new measures aimed at improving standards in the Youth Courts.

We have begun the process by publishing new guidance for barristers working in youth proceedings based on a set of essential competences that are expected of all advocates working with young people.

The competences themselves include specialist requirements in the following areas:

  • Law and procedure relating to criminal and youth justice;
  • Dealing with the vulnerability of young people;
  • Awareness of the background and needs of young people;
  • Communication and engagement; and
  • Awareness of the key organisations relevant to the youth justice sector.

This represents the first phase of changes to regulation in the light of the Youth Advocacy Proceedings research which we published in November 2015.

Later in the year we will also be introducing compulsory registration for barristers practising in youth courts. Whilst there are examples of good practice in this area, registration will allow us to identify all barristers who are working in the Youth Courts and where necessary to take steps to ensure that they have the specialist skills, knowledge and attributes that are crucial when working with young people.

We believe that this work is a priority, given the variable standards of advocacy the research found within the Youth Courts, and the vulnerability of the young people involved. We have worked with interested parties across the youth justice sector to develop these competences.