On Tuesday 1st October 2014, the Opening of the Legal Year in England in Wales commenced with a breakfast at the Law Society for leaders of bar associations and law societies across the world. Chair of the Bar Council, Nicholas Lavender QC, gave a speech in which he commended the work of the BHRC. See an extract from the speech below:

“I want to say something about the international work of the Bar and of the Bar Council.  There is a clichéd notion that the English bar is rather insular.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  About one eighth of our profession’s total income comes from overseas clients.  Our members act for clients from all over the world, providing legal advice and appearing in courts in England or abroad, and before arbitrators and mediators and all manner of tribunals.  This includes, but is not limited to, commercial barristers and those specialising in construction law or trust disputes.  Our criminal barristers also travel the world.  Several of them are conducting a case in Hong Kong at the moment.  English barristers have appeared in International Criminal Courts and Tribunals in cases concerning the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Lebanon and Sierra Leone and even in the Courts in Cambodia.

The Bar Council seeks to promote understanding of the Bar abroad.  For example, in March I led a trade mission to Brazil, and we have visited a number of other countries in recent years.  We also arrange exchange programmes for young lawyers with a number of countries.  Through the advocacy training council we provide advocacy training, and train others to be advocacy trainers, all over the world.  And we provide advice and assistance on rule of law issues in many jurisdictions.

Barristers working through the Bar Human Rights Committee, which is independent of the Bar Council, do a huge amount of good.

In Colombia barristers have helped in the dialogue between the government and the peace community, and were instrumental in leading President Santos to issue a public apology for past deeds.

In Nigeria barristers have worked over several years with UNICEF to promote children’s rights, training lawyers, social workers, NGOS, some judges, some police and the National Human Rights Commission in child rights.  This was followed by the first successful prosecutions in that country for rape of a child.  It has also led to proposals in this country to reform the law concerning female genital mutilation.

In Sri Lanka barristers have been working on gathering evidence of ongoing torture through sexual abuse in military centres following the end of the conflict in 2009.  They presented a report on this work to the United Nations and their work continues.”