From the President
Since the last edition of Hearsay in early March 2020, so much has changed in our lives. We are experiencing a global phenomenon like nothing we have ever seen.
COVID-19 has meant that we have had to reconsider the ways that we appear in court, conduct mediations and confer with clients. The flexibility with which the courts and the profession have adapted is a reflection of the high level of cooperation that has taken place, and also the determination with which members of the legal profession have approached their duties so as to ensure that the wheels of justice have continued to turn.
May I thank all the members of the Bar who have cooperated to ensure that legal services can continue to be delivered to our clients. Particular thanks on behalf of the Bar Association must go to Jeff Hunter QC who, as Chair of the Criminal Law Sub-Committee, has had an enormous burden placed upon him to consider new ways for handling criminal matters, to communicate initiatives to members of the profession and to liaise with the courts. The continued functioning of the Criminal Bar has been in no small part due to his efforts, and he ought to be publicly thanked.
Similarly, Syd Williams QC, Chair of the Family Law Sub-Committee, has been instrumental in facilitating efficiencies in the Family Court that has enabled the important work of that jurisdiction to continue, and the Bar extends its thanks to him also.
A special sub-committee was convened this year for the purpose of preparing a Sexual Harassment Policy which was approved by Bar Council on 17 August 2020. A copy of that Policy can be found here. As part of the Policy, formal complaints can be made to a number of bodies, and support is available to members by the Ethics Sub-Committee (Chaired by Roger Traves QC), the Equal Opportunity and Diversity Sub-Committee (Chaired by Peter Roney QC) and through Bar Care. Members are encouraged to access the Policy and make use of the assistance. Sexual harassment ought not be tolerated in any workplace, and the legal profession is no different. Members ought not suffer in silence, but should seek whatever guidance or assistance that is available to them.
Unfortunately, the Annual Bar Dinner had to be cancelled for 2020. It simply was not possible to responsibly deliver a function in the current environment. We hope to be able to deliver the Bar Dinner in 2021.
This version of Hearsay celebrates the retirement of His Honour Chief Judge Kerry O’Brien from the District Court with an interview by the editor with his Honour. BAQ also welcomes the new Chief Judge, His Honour Judge Brian Devereaux S.C.
Bar Practice Course Number 74 commenced 3 August, with an enthusiastic group of 28 pupils. Last week the course came to an end, with a final address from the Hon. John Byrne AO RFD. We look forward to welcoming new readers in the coming weeks.
As my time as President of the Bar Association draws to an end, I reflect on the challenges of the last two years. Certainly, no one expected the difficulties of 2020. Transformation in the law is sometimes slow and incremental. That could never be said of the changes to our legal system in 2020 which have included electronic appearances and hearings. I have been delighted by the level of close cooperation between the Bar and the Courts as well as the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, Director of Public Prosecutions, Legal Aid, Corrective Services and others that has enabled these changes to be effected swiftly. The relationship between the Bar and the Courts has always been strong, but it is fair to say that a new level of cooperation has been reached which has led to significant efficiencies in the delivery of legal services to clients. It can be expected that many of those efficiencies will continue in the future.
I have been heartened by the Bar’s continued ability to cultivate initiative and optimism. I trust that the remainder of 2020 will continue in the same vein.
Rebecca Treston QC