On Saturday 25th of May, members of The Bar of Ireland gathered in The Heritage Hotel, Killenard, Co. Laois for the Chairman’s Conference 2019 on the theme ‘Laws and Effect’.
Mícheál P. O’Higgins SC, Chairman, Council of The Bar of Ireland, gave the opening address to delegates, highlighting that as a profession, it is important that barristers are open to hearing from and listening to the people that they seek to represent in Court.
Mr. Justice George Birmingham President of the Court of Appeal chaired the morning session, ‘Right to Redress’.
Keynote speaker Vicky Phelan offered feedback on her experience as a plaintiff – encouraging members to stop and think about the human impact which can sometimes take a back seat as barristers advocate fearlessly for clients in court.
John Rogers SC shared the thought-provoking quote ‘a power over a man’s subsistence, is a power over a man’s will’ highlighting the concern that it is of fundamental importance to the rule of law that an independent and high-quality judiciary is supported and maintained in our country.
Denis McCullough SC outlined the background to the provision of Periodic Payments and set out some of the challenges with PPO’s, in particular the system of indexation.
Eileen Barrington SC summarised the alternative models being proposed by Government in response to the cervical check scandal to allow room for ‘grace and compassion’, as advocated for by colleague Turlough O’Donnell SC.
Breakout session speaker Jane McGowan BL, Chairperson of the Irish Criminal Bar Association, provided a detailed overview of the legislative backdrop in relation to disclosure, outlining that those who practice in criminal law are only too well aware that the ability of the system to cope with the increased volume and complexity of disclosure in recent years requires additional resources and investment.
Cliona Kimber SC, Chairperson of the Employment Bar Association gave us an insight into the damages that are now payable for breaches of privacy under the GDPR.
During the second breakout session, David Conlan Smyth SC, committee member of the EU Bar Association shared his insights on the Dublin system and how it is at the heart of the conflict in European politics today – it is clear that reform is desperately needed.
Helen Callanan SC, member of the Professional Regulatory and Disciplinary Bar Association, spoke about the regulated professions and the approach of regulators to seek the cooperation of professionals where a complaint of misconduct is made against them and touched on concerns about the approach of this Government to the Judicial Appointments Bill.
During the final session, ‘Serving Justice’, chaired by Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, delegates heard from Leona O’Callaghan, who bravely shared her experience of the justice system as a survivor of sexual violence - how it impacted upon her and called on members to play their part in ensuring the fair treatment of victims.
Caroline Biggs SC gave an overview of the measures in place to safeguard the treatment of vulnerable witnesses and victims in cases of sexual violence and rape and noted that the current system has the capacity to evolve.
Sean Gillane SC and Charles MacCreanor QC provided delegates with an overview of the issues that have been covered at some length in the media in relation to fair trials in the context of allegations of sexual crimes.
In addition to the conference sessions, delegates enjoyed an evening drinks reception and gala dinner.
We are most grateful to all of the speakers, session Chairs, sponsors and delegates that participated.