From the President - January 2023
Tēnā koutou katoa
Hoki mai anō | Welcome back.
It is great to be back meeting up with colleagues, who are looking so tanned and relaxed. Long may it last.
I wrote these opening words just before this weekend storm in Auckland and around the North Island. The “new normal” seems to involve regular unexpected events these days. I hope all our Auckland colleagues have been able to stay safe, if not dry. Sadly, the next week or so may well continue to disrupt Auckland lawyers. Flexible working, is now part of our essential tool box.
If there is any support needed, please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or anyone else on the Bar Council. We are happy to assist.
In my first year as President of the Bar Association, I wanted to take some time over Christmas to look at our place in the New Zealand legal community but also beyond New Zealand, at the challenges that other Bar Associations around the world are facing. It is humbling to see what is at stake in other countries and for their Bar Associations.
Our Aotearoa barrister community
The 2022 Snapshot of the Profession, produced by the Law Society, in the December LawTalk, we got an updated picture of our barrister community. It is a reminder that we hold a small and privileged position, as independent lawyers working in the courts and in dispute resolution.
As at 30 June 2022, there were just short of 2,000 barristers across the whole of the country. We are only 11.7% of all New Zealand lawyers. Yet we have a strong and important voice in law reform, speaking out on access to justice issues and assistance to the Courts and the Ministry of Justice. This is because of our experience as advocates at all levels of the justice system.
Female barristers now account for 43% of all barristers. This is a pleasing increase of 4% over the past two years. Female representation as Kings Counsel, make up 26% of all Kings Counsel currently. So, this remains a work in progress.
On other ethnic diversity measures we fair much more poorly. Lawyers who identify as Māori make up only 7% of the profession. Asian lawyers at 7.5% and Pasifika lawyers at only 3.4% , mean that our diversity at the bar is equally low. Our aim as a Bar Council is to ensure we continue to focus our attention and understanding, on improving these figures over the next decade. These figures highlight that we cannot turn away from this as a continued discussion and focus of our efforts. It is pleasing to see so many barristers are willing to engage on this objective with mentoring and showcasing opportunities to support new and junior barristers from diverse backgrounds into the profession.
Beyond our shores: Ukraine National Bar Association
Sadly, there are so many war-torn countries, I could focus this update on to highlight the important work of Bar Associations around the world. However, I thought it may be of interest to give a summary of the brave and historic work that is being undertaken by Bar Associations in Europe, where so much assistance is required in the Ukraine.
There are currently over 65,506 lawyers in Ukraine. Incredibly, membership of the Ukraine Bar Association has continued to grow during the war, despite the loss of lawyers who have been killed in the war.
In December 2022, the Vice President of the Ukrainian National Bar Association (UNBA) addressed the Annual Conference of the Bar Council of England and Wales. In a session chaired by Helena Kennedy KC on the threats to the rule of law, delegates were told of the challenges of work in a war zone and that the role of Ukrainian advocates has remain unchanged; namely to uphold the rule of law.
The United Kingdom’s Attorney General Victoria Prentis KC, has launched a UK training programme for Ukrainian judges who are set to conduct trials for war crimes following the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. More than 90 Ukrainian judges will undergo the UK funded sessions, which are being held in the region under the supervision of Judges at the International Criminal Court.
The UK Attorney General has pointed out that 50,000 cases had been recorded so far. The judicial training is just one part of a £2.5m Justice and Accountability package of UK assistance provided directly to Ukraine. The package also includes the deployment of Mobile Justice Teams to the scene of potential war crimes, forensic evidence gathering and support from UK experts in sexual violence in conflict. 
In October 2022, the International Bar Association (IBA) also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine (PGO) to ensure assistance with accountability for war crimes and other international crimes including the crime of aggression, genocide and conflict-related sexual violence. The MOU came into effect on 20 October 2022 and outlines a significant package of legal assistance.
- Access and use of photo and video files as potential evidence of international crimes committed in Ukraine, collected through the mobile application eyeWitness to Atrocities;
- Expert support on international crimes;
- Improving the capacity of prosecutors;
- An international Compensation Mechanism aimed to secure full and effective reparation for the harm suffered by Ukraine and Ukrainian people
All of this indicates there will be a traumatic and decades long role for the bar and the judiciary in the Ukraine, as they prosecute, defend and adjudicate on the growing number of war crimes trials. The New Zealand Bar Association as a member of the IBA, will continue to contribute to this MOU indirectly. We will also this year, reach our directly to the UNBA to offer our support. If you wish to make a direct donation please log on to https://en.unba.org.ua/call-for-donation.
When we look at the work for our Bar Council in Aotearoa | New Zealand, it is very much put into perspective for 2023. However, we look forward to continuing this year to supporting all barristers by advocating and educating on areas of interest to you all. I look forward to catching up during the year.
Maria Dew KC