Dear Fellow Circuiteer,
I am sorry to have to begin this message by pausing to remember His Honour Simon Hawkesworth QC who passed away this week. He was a lifelong member of the North Eastern Circuit and a former Circuit Officer who is fondly remembered across the entire Circuit. Our thoughts are with his family and friends and the Circuit Office will keep you updated about any arrangements for a Eulogy in due course.
I am sorry that I have not been in contact with you all for some time. In a sense no news is good news. This Circuit moved very rapidly to ensure that remote hearings were utilised to their maximum effect in early January and we have continued to manage the flow of work across all areas of practice. Whilst we do not underestimate the scale of the backlog generally we are at least keeping our heads above water.
As a Circuit we are consistently dealing with significant numbers of trials out all proportion to our relatively small size. That is in no small part down to your efforts. Having just finished a week of criminal sitting in Doncaster (yes remember Doncaster that brilliant purpose built Court that HMCTS closed to criminal cases) I reflected on the skill, efficiency and common sense of all of the advocates who conducted the three trials we managed to deal with in 4 days. There is good reason that the North Eastern Circuit retains its stellar reputation for doing the job properly and efficiently. Thank you all for the effort you put into your cases day in day out – you all do this Circuit proud.
There have been recent announcements of more nightingale Courts across the Country. We already have several such sites operating and I can assure you that there is local ambition to expand that number to provide increased capacity in all jurisdictions.
The CBA has published a wellbeing protocol which is attached to this message. If you have any feedback that you would like me to communicate to the CBA then please get in touch.
The CPS has launched a competition to select new Treasury Counsel. I appreciate that this London based appointment may not immediately appeal to you but there is a strong desire to widen the pool of applicants and for the Circuits to be represented. There is an online open evening on the 1st March at 5:30 p.m. and the details are attached to this message.
It is not too late to sign up for the NEC Diversity Training day that is going to be held remotely on the 27th February. Please do make an effort to attend what promises to be a thought provoking day packed with excellent speakers. Book your place here.
I regret that the next Grand Court will also have to be conducted remotely. It will take place on Thursday 25th March you can book your place here I hope and pray that it will not be too long before we can raise the roof together in Grand Court, if not in June then certainly by October.
Behind the scenes the work of the Circuit goes on through lockdown and I thank all of those who continue to contribute to our many and varied activities. The same is true in London as the Bar Council continues to do vital work on our behalf across a wide range of issues.
Speaking personally I must confess that this current lockdown has been the most testing of morale to date. The weather and the time of year has not helped. There have been moments when even the most optimistic of us has no doubt questioned when or if this will ever end. Now as the evenings slowly begin to draw out, and as the temperature increases, and as the vaccine rollout continues we can and must be confident that better times are coming both personally and professionally. In the meantime keep on looking after yourselves and each other and remember that we are all in this together.
My predecessor from West Tanfield would approve of my final recommendation for your improving your wellbeing here.
Best Wishes to you all