The first month in the Chair, it is fair to say has been hectic, and thoroughly enjoyable. I have written to many organisations to introduce SAHCA and set out some of the ongoing issues that solicitor advocates continue to face. This is important work to ensure that solicitor advocates are at the forefront of thoughts about advocates.
One key factor in my time so far as Chair is the knowledge that what the committee and its officers do today, will be for the good and benefit of solicitor advocates in the future. As such much of the work that is come to the forefront today, was the work of the previous chairs. This will continue, and I hope that in two years time, the new Chair will be looking back on the hard work that is being done now in a grateful manner.
Please take some time to read the Officers profiles to understand their path to becoming a solicitor advocate and their backgrounds. The Officers cover the three main areas of advocacy in which solicitor advocates work. Deborah Piccos, the Vice Chair, is an experienced children’s law advocate and will lead on family matters. Raman Thandi the Treasurer is an experienced civil advocate and will lead on civil matters. Finally Henry Hills the Secretary is an experienced criminal advocate and will lead on criminal matters.
All Officers will work on all matters, but their attention and focus will be on ensuring that the views of the members are expressed by and to the Committee in their specific areas.
I have had some encouraging correspondence with a number of our members, about the ways forward and what we can achieve. The committee will discuss at our next meeting, issues about work shadowing for both those that are qualified, and those thinking of seeking their higher rights.
We have already had a response from the JAC and QCA in respect to the issues relating to the low number of solicitors generally being appointed to judicial posts, especially the more senior posts. This will be discussed at committee, and a response formulated.
We have additionally engaged with the organisation “We are Advocate”, the re-branded “Bar Pro Bono Unit”. They have already indicated that the rebranding was in order to make access to all advocates more viable. I have taken the opportunity to sign up and take cases, I hope that other advocates will be able to do so and that moving forward the organisation will become more inclusive.
Pro Bono work, whilst something that all lawyers should aspire to is not a replacement for a properly funded legal system. We have seen the new budget, which makes further cuts to the general budget. As such we are concerned that there will not be more money for the AGFS, which is so desperately needed. The poor maintenance of Court buildings is of great concern. Advocates are entitled to work in a safe environment, and cannot be expected to make do.