I was pleased, but not surprised, to learn this week that at least 11 barristers from our Bar have accepted instructions to act pro bono for the families of the Bourke Street victims at the inquest which is scheduled to commence on 18 November 2019 and expected to run for 8 weeks—one of the biggest inquests in Victorian history. The team comprises Áine Magee QC, Sue McNicol QC, Nick Papas QC, Barbara Myers, Marko Cvjeticanin, Fiona Spencer, Fiona Ryan, Kylie Weston-Scheuber, Liz Ruddle, Maria Pilipasidis and Mathew Kenneally. Much work has already been done on a pro bono basis in responding to various issues and in preparation. Needless to say, this is very much in the finest traditions of the Victorian Bar, providing access to justice for those most in need.
The Bar’s Annual Report 2019 is available for reading, having been approved at the AGM of the Victorian Bar, Inc on Monday night. I commend it to members. It is the official record of the activities of the whole of the Victorian Bar for the year to 30 June 2019, and includes my President’s report, the CEO’s report, reports of all of our Bar Associations and standing committees, financial statements and reports, details of judicial and other appointments, and the annual report of the Barristers’ Benevolent Association.
Bar Council elections
Voting is open for the Bar Council election. Please take the time to review the candidate list and select the members you want to manage your interests for the next year. More information in the notice below, and in the email that was sent to all eligible members on Tuesday afternoon.
Sam Hay SC
Completing my series honouring the support and contribution of the current Bar Council Executive, this week I recognise the work of the Bar’s Treasurer, Sam Hay SC. Sam has been a superb Treasurer for the last two years—astute, diligent and proactive.
Sam is a former Assistant Honorary Secretary and Honorary Secretary of the Bar Council, positions that are key to the operation of the Bar Council and the smooth operation of the Bar itself. He has been elected to Bar Council in each year since 2014, and has served on the Counsel Committee continuously over that period. He was the Assistant Treasurer in 2017, before joining the Executive as Treasurer in November 2017.
During Sam’s tenure, the role of Treasurer has expanded to encompass risk as well as finance, with the Audit & Finance Committee, of which the Treasurer is ex officio chair, becoming the Audit, Finance & Risk Committee. The Committee oversees a system of internal controls to safeguard the Bar’s assets and ensures that we have policies in place to mitigate foreseen risks.
As a result of the work of the Audit, Finance & Risk Committee, we can be confident in the integrity of the Bar’s financial statements, that the Bar’s internal controls concerning financial reporting are appropriately set and audited, and that the Bar is compliant with legal and regulatory requirements.
Another quiet achievement this year has been a complete governance reform of the Barristers’ Benevolent Fund. With me, Sam is one of the Fund’s two trustees. As the report in the Bar’s Annual Report demonstrates, Sam’s work has secured the effective governance and health of the trust into the future.
Sam has also chaired two of the working groups appointed by the Bar Council to review our governance and has served as a member of the constitutional reform working group chaired by Simon Marks QC. He is a member of the Legal Costs Committee which has functions under the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014.
Throughout my term as President, I have relied on Sam’s wise assistance and counsel in relation to these important (some might uncharitably say not-so-glamorous) activities of the Bar Council. I was delighted when Sam took silk last week.
New County Court appointments
Congratulations to her Honour Judge Anne Hassan and his Honour Judge Kevin Doyle, who have been appointed to the County Court of Victoria. The profession will extend a welcome to the new judges in Court 3-3 of the County Court at 9.15am on Tuesday 12 November (for Judge Hassan) and Tuesday 19 November (for Judge Doyle).
Victorian Bar Entrance Exam 2020
After careful deliberation, the Victorian Bar has resolved to hold only one Bar entrance exam next year. It will be held in October or November 2020, with the final date still to be determined.
The reasons for this decision include ensuring that the exam is connected as proximately as possible to the Readers’ Course in which successful candidates will be offered a place. If an exam were held in May 2020, based on the current waiting list, successful candidates would not be able to commence the Readers’ Course until 2021. By holding the next exam in late 2020, most successful candidates should be able to be accommodated in the March 2021 and September 2021 courses.
Following the recent review which I highlighted in August, the Victorian Bar is investigating the feasibility of recommended changes for the exam. We expect these will be rolled out for the 2020 examination. Further details will be communicated as they are confirmed.
Call for Expressions of Interest
There are two calls for expressions of interest in the notices section below. One is for the position of Assistant Honorary Secretary to Bar Council, and the other is for membership of the Supreme Court Library Committee.
On behalf of the Bar, I would like to thank Andrew Bell, who is running for election to Bar Council and plans to step down as Honorary Secretary after the election.
Members have been distressed to hear that one of our colleagues, Chris Farrington, is fighting for his life with an aggressive form of cancer. His friend and colleague Glenn Casement has started a go-fund-me campaign which provides an opportunity for members to support Chris and his family. Glenn says “Chris is a fearless criminal lawyer has seen him stand up for many without a voice. With that work now having ceased, we all have an opportunity to stand up and support him as he and his young family endure these heartbreaking times, with bills, medical expenses, and financial commitments continuing to add up.”
Members who know Chris are also invited to show their support for the Farrington family by attending an event at Johnny's Emporium in Yarraville on Saturday 9 November 2019 from 7:30pm. Tickets to ‘A Night for Chris Farrington’ can be booked here. Dress code: colourful boardshorts on the bottom, and the sporting team colours on the top that you most associate with Chris (for example Williamstown Cannons, Newport Power, Newport Raiders, or the Essendon Football Club).
In other news
I have been in court this week (really). The highlight of the week was otherwise the celebratory drinks with our newest silks last night.