Helen Blog Post

Message from Helen Fitzsimons

I am delighted to be your President for the next 12 months. For those of you who do not know me…

Chichester Court Closures

Dear Members,

As you will no doubt be aware, the Government has now announced its intention to close all three Courts at Chichester. This is due to commence in October 2016. This is extremely concerning to us all. As you may have seen in the Law Society Gazette we have been very vocal in our objections to the closure and have been working closely with other interested parties such as  Resolution and Pallant Chambers to try and persuade Government that this is not the right approach. You will have seen Sara Fildes in the Observer and on the news publicising our position as a Society on your behalf and I am very grateful to her for doing so.

As I appreciate that you may not have had chance to read the announcement and Regional Response from the Government in full I would summarise the decision as follows:

1.     The County and Family Court will close at some point between January and March 2017 and the workload will be moving primarily to Worthing County Court and Family Court, but cases may also be listed in other county and family courts in Horsham and Brighton.

2.     From October – December this year the Magistrates Court will close and the workload transferred to Worthing and Horsham Magistrates’ Courts.

3.     The Regional Response document indicates that the Crown Court will close and the work from that Court will be moved to Lewes and Portsmouth, but then goes on to say that it is being retained and will be used to allow video links for cases in the County Court. We shall wait and see what develops here.

As the announcement has now been made that there will be closures the Society is lobbying local Councillors and MPs on your behalf to try and get the Government to review its position. We are continuing to work closely with other organisations to raise public awareness of the issue before the decision becomes irreversible. We are also taking advice on the option to look at a judicial review of the decision.

We do need your help to support this campaign and the help we need from you as members is :

Firstly, we are having a gathering at the Court on Saturday 12 March at 12 noon where we are hoping to gather a significant number of people showing their support to keep the Court open. We have already contacted Spirit FM and the Chichester Observer who are both keen to cover this event. Please can you be there! We need to have access via media to explain the significance of the decision and why they should be concerned about it!

Secondly, please encourage your clients to write to their local MP explaining the impact that travelling to another Court would have on their own access to justice in this area. Whilst I appreciate that this may seem onerous on clients it is likely that the more personalised responses that the Government receives the more notice they will take. As you will have seen in the Gazette this week the Government claim only a small number of complaints have been received since the announcement!
We will be running a social media campaign on this so please share tweets and statuses on LinkedIn to spread the word as far as is possible!

If anyone has any thoughts or views that they would like to be put forward in our response, please do let me know.

Many thanks for your help with this and I look forward to seeing you on 12 March!

Kind regards,

Maria Monan

President of the Chichester and District Law Society

mmonan@edwardhayes.co.uk

President’s Blog – Autumn 2015

THE PRESIDENT’S BLOG – Autumn 2015

I will be handing over my position as President of Chichester & District Law Society to Maria Monan, my Vice President, on 20 November 2015. I therefore just wanted to first of all thank all the Chichester & District Law Society Committee for their help and support over this last year.

It has been extremely busy and in particular there have been lots of events that have occurred since my last blog to you this summer.

We had a tremendously successful summer drinks event organised by Dominic Ryan at George Bell House this year on 18 June 2015. A beautiful setting on a wonderful summer’s day. I know that all those that attended had a thoroughly enjoyable time so thank you Dominic.

Once again this year thank you to everybody that attended the Legal Walk on 8 September 2015. Thank you in particular for our President of the Law Society, Jonathan Smithers, and Mr Justice Knowles QC CBE for taking time out of their very busy schedules to attend our Chichester walk. Everybody who supported the walk should be congratulated as we raised almost £5,000 for local legal advice agencies.

It has been a particularly busy month for me with the Ministry of Justice announcement in July for the closure of 91 Courts and Tribunals across the country which included the Chichester Combined Court and Magistrates Court. The consultation for this closed on 8 October and I am pleased to say that we had a huge response to this consultation. We also managed to get three articles in the Chichester Observer on consecutive weeks expressing grave concern over the impact that the closure will have upon the community’s access to justice. We also had a front page article in the Law Society Gazette pointing out that Chichester is one of the busiest Courts on the list of the 91 Courts earmarked for closure. I wanted to particularly thank Bill Emerson from Pallant Chambers for his excellent report to the consultation and work that he has done in opposing the closure. Also Justin Lees and Edward Cooke on behalf of Resolution for their report.

I had a meeting with Andrew Tyrie, our MP, together with Bill Emerson from Pallant Chambers and Edward Cooke on behalf of Resolution which has now lead to further questions over the consultation. Mr Tyrie’s view is there is a complete lack of budgetary evidence in the proposed cuts or any clear analysis on budget methodology provided by the Ministry of Justice justifying the proposals. I am writing to Jonathan Smithers, President of the Law Society, for him to make further representations in relation to this to the Ministry of Justice.

I had the great pleasure also of attending the Opening of the Legal Year on 1 October which initially started at Middle Temple then onto Westminster Abbey where we processed into the Houses of Parliament. It was a truly spectacular day but importantly it also gave me the opportunity at the Houses of Parliament to speak at length to Shailesh Vara, the parliamentary Under Secretary, concerning the issues of the closure of Chichester Combined Court. He assured me that it was a true consultation and that he had already had his ear bent by Andrew Tyrie in relation to Chichester Combined Court.

I am also delighted that we had the re-launch for the Private Client Sub-Committee Group. Thank you to Margaret Windram for being co-opted onto the Law Society Committee to head up this group.

We also had another combined event with CILEX through the London Legal Support Trust for a quiz night held on 4 November 2015. Thank you to all those that attended this event.

I hand over the reins as President of Chichester & District Law Society to Maria Monan, my Vice President at our AGM on 21 November 2015. This will be followed by our annual dinner which is always very well attended by the whole society. This year the event is to take place at Chichester Yacht Club and it looks like it is going to be another great evening with dinner and entertainment provided in this beautiful setting overlooking the estuary. I therefore take this opportunity of wishing the Vice President every success as she embarks on her new position.

Sara Fildes
President

CPD – updates to the new requirements

‘All solicitors and registered European lawyers (RELs) in legal practice or employment in England and Wales must comply with the SRA’s continuing professional development requirements or continuing competence requirements. The current CPD system is being replaced by the continuing competence requirements. Solicitors can choose to move to the new system as of 1 April 2015 or they may remain under the old system until 1 November 2016 when they must move to the new system. There are also interim arrangements in place that affect those under the old system.

The new practice note includes advice on getting the most from your CPD by choosing activities most suited to you as a practitioner and to your practice as a business. You can find it here.

Court Closures in Chichester

You should have heard by now that the Ministry of Justice wish to close all three courts in Chichester, which includes the Crown, County and Magistrates Court.

These court closures will affect firms across the Chichester District as well as our clients.

The Law Society have launched a consultation into the court closures across the country.

As your local law society we encourage you to engage in this consultation process. Please follow the link to the Law Society website to have your say link here.

President’s Blog – Summer 2015

As President of Chichester & District Law Society I have been kept extremely busy over the last few months since my last blog.

Firstly, I attend the Worthing District Law Society Annual Dinner on 6 March. This was a lovely event hosted by Ian Macara at The Dome, Worthing. A very enjoyable evening was had by everybody that attended.

Also I attended at the Sussex Law Society Annual Dinner hosted by Jane Wells at The Grand Hotel in Brighton. A fantastic event again this year with a number of District Judges and Circuit Judges attending at the top table and entertainment afterwards with a live band followed by a disco.

The great thing in attending at these annual dinners is that it forges great communication with the other local Law Societies to see what they are doing within their society. In particular we are now looking at a combined training event in criminal law with Worthing Law Society. I am hoping to be able to put in place a training day, possibly in the Worthing area, and once I have more information available on this I will be able to provide this to all members.

Both Jo Andrews (Secretary of Chichester & District Law Society) and myself attended this year’s Presidents and Secretaries Conference on 8 and 9 May. The theme this year very much for the Law Society was that of Access to Justice. Everybody will be thoroughly aware of the cuts made by the Government to legal aid. Further announcements of cuts of 8.75% for solicitors representing those accused of wrong doing together with a number of contracts for solicitors providing 24 hour cover at police stations and local communities reduced to 527 from 1,600 which would leave people without representation. The abolition for legal aid in family (except in certain cases of domestic violence) has, of course, had a huge impact on the ability to have any representation for those of limited income in divorce, ancillary relief matters and children matters. The implications of this has meant that there has been a huge increase in litigants in person through the Court system which has created a backlog of matters, putting a huge strain on what is already a busy Court listing. At a time when things could not be more difficult for litigants in person we see a wide spread closure of the front desk help in Courts. This is leading many people to simply be unable to have any access to justice. The Law Society is looking at ways in which they can lobby the Government concerning all these issues surrounding access to justice and they are putting out a nationwide call to solicitors who can provide specific details they have come across of clients who have experienced a complete failure in the system to provide them with that very much needed access to justice. If you have any case studies that you can provide the Law Society with please do send them in and these can assist them in their specific representations to the Government.

I also wanted to specifically thank all the members of CILEX for putting on and hosting the Combined CILEX and Chichester & District Law Society Quiz that was held on 16 April at The Old Cross. This was extremely well attended and was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Very well done to Quizzy Rascals for their win.

Thank you for all those that have sent in articles for the Law Society website. I am very pleased to announce this month that Caroline de Vries is the winner of the bottle of champagne and you will see her article on the website. Please do continue to send in any articles that you would like us to put on the website and if we do publish your article you will be the proud winner of a bottle of champagne.

As you will all know, we have our social summer drinks on Thursday 18 June at George Bell House. If you haven’t already bought tickets I would urge you all to buy tickets to what is going to be a wonderful evening. Thank you to Dominic Ryan again for organising everything this year.

I was also very pleased to meet Bhavnia Fowler who is currently our regional manager stepping in for Kim Seth during maternity leave. She has attended at our recent Chichester & District Law Society meeting to meet all members of the Committee and to introduce herself to everybody. She has circulated amongst you all the South East Regional Law Society monthly report. She has also extended an invite to all members of our District Law Society who would like to meet with her to discuss any issues you have that are dealt with or handled by the Law Society. If anybody would wish to meet with her do contact myself or Jo Andrews and we will see if we can arrange a date and venue.

Some of you may also be aware that on 9 July 2015 Mr Jonathan Smithers of Cooper Burnett Solicitors will become President of the Law Society for England and Wales. I am sure you will join me in congratulating him on this forthcoming position. As you will be aware, Jonathan Smithers gave a talk at our Law Society dinner.

I am also extremely pleased to announce that again this year we will have the Legal Walk in Chichester held on 8 September 2015 lead by Jonathan Smithers President of the Law Society and Mr Justice Knowles QC CBE. Details of the walk are on the Chichester & District Law Society website and have been circulated.

Sara Fildes
President
Chichester & District Law Society

Chichester and District Law Society on LinkedIn

The Chichester and District Law Society have sent up a LinkedIn page to keep our members up to date with the society’s news and events. Please join our group and invite other colleagues and members to as well.

LinkedIn page

School Mock Trials – May 2015

The Chichester and District Law Society were pleased to support the School Mock Trials recently held at Worthing Magistrates Court.

Write an Article for the Website

Dear Members,

As you know, the Law Society has a fantastic website which we want you all to be able to contribute to. This year I want to encourage members to utilise the website by writing articles of interest. To encourage members in doing this the Law Society will be offering a prize to any member whose article is chosen to be uploaded onto the website each month. The prize will be a bottle of champagne.

Please do send any articles that you have written and would like to be posted onto the website to Georgina Colwell (gcolwell@edwardhayes.co.uk).

Good Luck and we look forward to reading your articles with interest!
With kind regards

Sara Fildes
President of the Chichester Law Society

Criminal Legal Aid Cuts – proposed conference call

On 27 February 2014 and 6 March 2014 The Law Society held a conference call with local law societies to discuss the government’s legal aid annoucement in relation to the cuts to criminal legal aid.

The reason for these conference calls was to ask local law socieities for their views on the Law Society’s activities over the next few months in relation to the legal aid cuts. The Law Soceity wants to gather the veiws of as many members of the profession as possible on how they will be affected by the legal aid cuts.

Therefore the Law Society is propsoing to hold another conference call for those local law societies/practitioners who were unable to attend on previous occasions. If you would like to take part in the conference call please contact feedbackcriminalegalaid@lawsociety.org.uk.