H.M. PROCUREUR, CHIEF PLEAS SPEECH 2020
The Court of the Chief Pleas met on 5 October in the traditional start to the legal year. To read the speech made by Megan Pullum, H.M. Procureur, please click the Read More button.
Mr Bailiff, Your Excellency, distinguished guests, Members of the Court, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the beginning of this year, the author and advisor Professor Richard Susskind published a book- entitled "Online Courts and the Future of Justice" This followed some flagship research by the OECD which highlighted a growing backlog of cases and failure to deliver justice by many courts across the world. That research focused on the necessary steps to tackle inequality of access to justice and noted that a staggering 46% of human beings do not live under the protection of the law or have any access to courts.
For those of you who are familiar with the work and advice of Professor Susskind it will not surprise you to learn that in his book '- he espoused the use of technology and the use of online courts to clear backlogs in the court system. Despite his foresight for the use of technology in the justice system , he could never have envisaged how prescient his book would be in that just a couple of months later the world and our justice systems would fundamentally have to change the way justice was delivered by virtue of the impact of the covid-19 pandemic.
For many lawyers across the world, the impact of the pandemic has seen horrifying stories of police brutality, human rights transgressions and courts struggling to cope with more modern ways of delivering justice.
Whilst, fortunately, this has not been the case here, the initial lockdown made the work of many lawyers very difficult, this was especially so for jurisdictions where the filing of court processes and court proceedings have always been done in person.
Luckily we had an IT infrastructure, that despite some wobbles, has enabled justice to be delivered online, with virtual court rooms and even virtual States meetings being made possible. The courts and members of the Bar are to be congratulated for embracing online technology thus enabling access to justice for those most in need in our community in the face of an unprecedented public health emergency.
Embracing online technology has also meant working from home. Although this has been anathema to some, for others, this has increased work productivity and focus and helped to improve their work/ life balance. In many ways all of us need to perhaps tune in more both to our voices and to the voices of our communities in crying out for fair treatment and available access to justice that suits our modern lifestyles as service providers on top of the challenges of dealing with today's covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and other business pressures.
Now is also perhaps an opportune moment to say Sir that the reflection of the public at large in the judiciary is also important and particularly so in this uncertain year.
At the UK Bar Council's annual conference last year, Baroness Hale, then President of the Supreme Court, emphasised how important it is for lawyers and the judiciary to be reflective of society. Everyone, she said, "should feel confident that the law is there for them if they need it because the rule of law is there to serve everyone."
Whilst earlier this year, the Bar was not able to say farewell to our former Bailiff Sir Richard Collas in person due to lockdown restrictions, the court must be congratulated in its fast embrace of online technology which enabled the formal appointment of the first female deputy Bailiff via Microsoft teams. Congratulations are also due to Advocate Catherine Fooks, who has been announced as the next Judge of the Royal Court.
Congratulations are also due to Advocate Elaine Gray in becoming the first female president of the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce this year.
All these appointments help to better reflect the diversity of our community and that the values of justice, fairness and equality are "embedded in our laws" and reflected at the highest levels of our judiciary.
I also wish to pay tribute to the members of the Bar Council, especially the Batonnier who will come to the end of her term of office later this month. She has given very generously of her time over the last 2 years in seeking to ensure access to justice for all members of our community.
I conclude Sir with a further reference to Professor Susskind who has stated he will be updating his book in the light of the covid-19 pandemic. In the meantime he offers a number of thought provoking questions about the future for lawyers. In his book, he queries whether online courts should expressly exclude the involvement of lawyers or whether the imperative is to introduce new legal processes that are sufficiently simplified such that lawyers are not in fact needed. He recommends an outcomes approach which ensures that the outcomes of justice are available to all and not a few.
Sir, as our society continues to deal with the impact of covid 19, and the need to reorganise contractual relationships, restructure businesses, as well as the challenges of starting a new political term, the legal profession can and should fit well into the Island's 'revive and thrive strategy'. Again, rather presciently Professor Susskind considers that "In the end, lawyers should survive and thrive not because their use is mandated but because they can bring value that no alternative people, processes, or systems can offer."
As we consider the aftermath and effect of COVID-19 and the demands and challenges that lie ahead, we need the rule of law more than ever and I am confident that Members of this Bar will indeed thrive and will ensure justice is valued and available to all.
I wish you all bon courage and good health for the coming legal year.