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Bar round-up: Bar Council appoints chief executive while 39 Essex Street to suspend pupillages

It’s been a busy week at Bar but not necessarily for the right reasons. While the Bar Council has appointed its first chief executive in two years, 39 Essex Street has announced it is to take a year out from recruiting pupils for following its merger with 4-5 Gray’s Inn last year. Meanwhile, controversial comments from Hardwicke Chambers’ Barbara Hewson have forced it to distance itself publicly from its own member.

Stephen Crowne will take the lead at the Bar Council on 3 June, filling the chief executive position that has been vacant for two years. Crowne comes from Cisco, where he has been senior director of global education for two years.

Prior to this, he was chief executive of the British Technology & Communications Agency (BECTA) – a government agency promoting IT in education – for five years before it was shut down by the Government in 2011.

The Bar Council said that its decision to appoint a new chief executive reflects its wish to have strong leadership to ensure it remains fit for purpose, both financially and in serving the needs of the Bar.

Crowne’s new role will be to facilitate the operations of the Council’s policy-making committees and to support the development of its strategy and the fulfillment of its approved regulator role.

Maura McGowan QC, chairman of the Council, said: ‘We are delighted that Stephen has agreed to take up the role of chief executive. He joins the Bar Council at a time of great change for the profession.

‘His experience in the Civil Service at senior levels and more recently in business will help us as an organisation to address the challenges of the diverse and complex environment in which the profession’s governing body operates and enable us meet the needs of the profession and its clients more effectively.’

Meanwhile 39 Essex Street has announced that it is to suspend intake of pupils for the year 2014-2015 in response to an over-supply of juniors as a result of its tie-up with 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square last year.

24 members of 4-5 Gray’s Inn moved to 39 Essex Street in November 2012, including seven silks, one pupil who had just been made tenant, a third six pupil and one other pupil. One other pupil will be taken on from 4-5 Gray’s Inn for this pupillage year.

David Barnes, chief executive and director of clerking, said: ‘The decision is only very short-term. Recruiting 24 new barristers is quite a lot to integrate in a short space of time. We will be reinstigating the pupillage as soon as possible.’

Charles Cory-White QC, joint-head of pupillage, said that the decision had been made in fairness to both future pupils and those juniors currently working in chambers.

‘As in any chambers there is a limited amount of work at the junior end and we have a strong policy where we do not recruit people as pupils unless we are able to guarantee that we could take them on,’ he said.

A statement on the chambers’ website added: ‘This decision neither impacts upon nor is any reflection of concerns about, recruitment to tenancy from this year or next year’s crop of pupils, in relation to whom the position remains as before.’

In other news, one barrister made national headlines last week as she controversially criticised Operation Yewtree, the police investigation into allegations facing media figures in the wake of evidence emerging last year of abuse by deceased TV presenter Jimmy Savile.

Hardwicke Chambers barrister Barbara Hewson – in a post on online publication Spiked – launched her attack on the investigation following the prosecution of presenter Stuart Hall for sex offences.

In an opening passage, Hewson wrote: ‘I do not support the persecution of old men. The manipulation of the rule of the law by the Savile Inquisition…and its attendant zealots poses a far graver threat to society than anything Jimmy Savile ever did.’

She later describes Operation Yewtree as a disproportionate response to relatively minor offences and concludes the piece with: ‘As for law reform, now regrettably necessary, my recommendations are: remove complainant anonymity; introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions and reduce the age of consent to 13.’

Hardwicke Chambers released a statement soon after expressing its shock and disassociating itself from the views expressed by Hewson.

For more comment on Hewson’s post, click here.