Greetings from Wales/ Cyfarchion o Gymru with news of events over the 2022-23 year.
On Friday 7 October 2022 the Legal Wales Conference and Dinner returned as an in-person and online event at the excellent Venue Cymru conference centre in Llandudno.
The headline speaker was Sir Howard Morrison, formerly a Judge of the International Criminal Court at the Hague and independent adviser on war crimes to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General. Other speakers included Mick Antoniw MS (Counsel General for Wales), Master David Lloyd-Jones, Fiona Rutherford (Chief Executive of JUSTICE) and Master Ian Burnett, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. These are immensely significant, constructive and enjoyable conferences and continues to demonstrate the vibrant and innovative legal landscape in Wales.
St David’s Day – Wednesday 1 March 2023. Our patron saint, as legend has it, was a teetotal vegetarian – not something necessarily reflected at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on rugby international days I must say. Strict dieters these days have nothing on St David. He and his monks led a very modest and austere life, living off just bread, leeks and water. They even refused to use oxen to plough their fields, choosing to do it by hand – perhaps demonstrating why we Welsh have routinely provided the British Lions with world class rugby forwards. The only patron saint said to be native to his country in the UK and Ireland, his last reported words to his followers came from his last sermon – ‘Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.’ The phrase ‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain’ – ‘Do the little things’ – is, perhaps, pertinent to our profession as it those ‘little things’ when accompanying the ‘bigger things’ we do for others that can make all the difference.
So, with that somewhat altruistic prologue, we trouped from our homes across England and Wales to Temple Church on Wednesday 1 March 2023 for the annual St David’s Day Choral Evensong service. The evening was made even more poignant by the presence of the London Welsh Male Voice Choir whose spine-tingling renditions of, amongst other hymns, ‘Cwm Rhondda’, reverberated gloriously around the church. Master Treasurer read the First Lesson and we were also treated to Master Price-Lewis’ recital of Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V – iv. 7’, done in his inimitable and mellifluous style that would have put Richard Burton to shame! A masterclass in oratory and a wonderful service.
I can also report that the post service dinner in Hall was considerably more than ‘bread, leeks and water’ but was clearly inspired by St David’s dietary lifestyle. We were served vegetarian ‘cawl’ soup to start, hake, leeks and laverbread to follow and ‘Bara Brith’ bread and butter pudding to conclude. We were also treated to a delightful musical interlude by harpist Olivia Jageurs who also gave us a short history of this extraordinary instrument so deeply associated with Wales.
International Women’s Day (Wednesday 8 March 2023) saw the launch of the Women in Criminal Law Wales (WICL) division at Cardiff Crown Court. The library was transformed with portraits of inspirational women in criminal law with a speech being given by the current Recorder of Cardiff, HHJ Tracey Lloyd-Clarke (a Middle Templar). This event was organised by Tabitha Walker (another Middle Templar and my former pupil so, of course, I continue to claim reflected credit here!) and Emma Harris. It was very well attended by all fields across the legal landscape. WICL Wales is a branch of the main WICL society based in London and continues to promote and facilitate the mentoring and networking of women working in criminal law. It is also open to all who wish to be involved and invested in this. These are truly inspiring, inclusive and very sociable events. WICL Wales intends to hold future networking events, including, at the time of writing, ‘A view from the District Bench – an unvarnished view of the process of application and life as a District Judge – with DJ Susan Bennett and DJ Marjory Taylor’. It promises ‘wine and nibbles’ at a local ‘wine merchant’, so these are, as I say, both vitally important and very sociable events.
On Friday 12 May 2023, the Parkhouse Hotel in Cardiff held the first Wales and Chester Circuit Bar Mess where members of the Employed Bar could attend, now eligible to join their self-employed colleagues as members of Circuit since a change in constitution. It was a successful, inclusive, and enjoyable evening, which also paid tribute to the outstanding career of Mr Justice Robin Spencer who retires this year. The Wales and Chester Circuit, under the dynamic and positive leadership of Caroline Rees KC, continues to go from strength to strength.
On Friday 19 May 2023, the Middle Temple Wales Circuit Society held another annual dinner at the Park Plaza Hotel in Cardiff. This was further opportunity for Middle Templars in Wales to regroup and connect with their Inn, and we had a Qualifying Session with the Middle Temple students studying in Wales ahead of the dinner. The importance of these Circuit Societies and events cannot be understated. Historically, if you were living and practising outside London, certainly in Wales, engagement with the Inn was typically confined to your study in London and Call Night as a youngster and then the odd trip to London to the Court of Appeal during your career, with maybe lunch afterwards in Hall. Having the facility of Teams and Zoom now means that Middle Templars outside London, from the North of England to the West of Wales, can participate in the development and running of our Inn within the various committees. It is, of course, vital that, post pandemic, our Inn resumes as an in-person and vibrant place to learn, work and socialise. Our Circuit Societies contribute to that by tangibly connecting our members, new or established, with the Inn in terms of dinners and events (whether on Circuit or in Hall) and raises the profile of all the work the Inn does nationally and internationally.
In my report to you all, I must acknowledge the passing of a major figure in the Welsh legal landscape – Master Ian Murphy who died before his time on Friday 10 March 2023. Master Murphy was, frankly, a star at the Bar – excelling as, predominantly, a criminal and personal injury practitioner, a silk of just effortless and immense ability, showing graciousness and care towards everyone from professional and lay clients, Lord Justices of Appeal to the security guards and cleaners at the various courtrooms. He was a fair minded and patient Recorder, a superb and steadfast Head of Chambers, and, more importantly, a much-loved family man with his wife, Penny, his daughters and his grandchildren. I was lucky enough to have been led by Ian and to have shared many times with him in and out of court. He also never failed to attend a Middle Temple Wales Society event and had all the time in the world for the next generation following in his huge footsteps. If you ever saw him in action, he was one of those you would say to yourself, ‘I’ll never be as good as that’. Ian was a good man, and he is constantly and deeply missed by all who had the privilege to have known him.
Finally, I cannot end this missive without bringing you news of those we once knew who are in pastures new. In March 2023, I was prosecuting a murder trial at Caernarfon Crown Court before Master Charles. Towards the end of the case, I received an invitation from an Honorary Bencher who lives on Anglesey. The invitation was to abandon the rather brown hotel food and come for a proper supper. So it was, with great delight, that I had the pleasure of good home cooked food, wine and just the most wonderful company with Master Colin Davidson and his wife Mary at their home in Llandegfan. Mary is a native of this part of the world and knows everyone. Colin runs not only the family grounds but also the nearby estates, bringing with him the skills and experience he brought to our Inn for over 40 years. The photographs at the top of this article are the views of Snowdonia from their front garden and the alcohol licence sign (originally over our library and now over his barn door – one of the gifts from the Inn upon his retirement) permitting the Inn to sell alcohol. The licence was first obtained in Colin’s name in 1989, so how the Revels survived and thrived during the previous 420 years before that licence will remain a complete mystery!
Master Michael Jones was Called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1995 and was, twice, a member of the Revels. He practised from chambers in South Wales before joining the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in 2009 as the first Senior Crown Advocate in Wales. In 2018 he was appointed Queen’s Counsel, the first ever appointment from the CPS in Wales. He is a member of the Membership Committee, immediate Past Chair of the Employed Bar Society, Member of the Bench Selection Advisory Committee, Secretary of the Middle Temple Wales Circuit Society, immediate past Chair of the Employed Bar Committee of the Bar Council and Chairman of the Welsh Parliamentary Rugby XV.