Scott shows barristers the yellow card

THE VICE-Chancellor, Sir Richard Scott, has opened a black book which will list chambers and individual barristers who are late submitting skeleton arguments to the High Court.

Under the scheme, which started at the beginning of the month, persistent offenders will be reported to the Bar Council and, in the very worst cases, could face a disciplinary tribunal. If an entire set develops a poor record the head of chambers will be summoned before Scott to account for the problem.

Other sanctions, which also relate to the late delivery of bundles by solicitors, include specific cases being postponed until a judge has had time to read the skeleton, and the disallowment of costs incurred in the preparation of the skeleton.

A letter circulated around the Bar by John Hales, clerk of the lists at the High Court, said that all skeletons and bundles for cases in the Chancery and Queen's Bench divisions had to arrive by 10.30am the day prior to a hearing.

Hales said: “There is a general misconception that the judges do not read the skeletons prior to the hearing. In many instances this is a fallacy.”

David Goddard, senior clerk at 4 Stone Buildings and vice-chairman of the Institute of Barristers' Clerks, welcomed the move but said the system had to be flexible.

However, the idea has been criticised by some barristers who are fearful that their chambers will get blacklisted through no fault of their own.

“What they don't seem to understand is that chambers are just a collection of barristers operating as independent practitioners,” said one barrister.