Although we have had to make many changes to the PLA calendar over recent months, the various committees of the PLA have continued to work hard on your behalf.
Our Law Reform Committee, in association with their PBA counterparts, were impressively quick of the mark in persuading the Master of the Rolls to rewrite Practice Direction 51Z which would otherwise have prevented the eviction of squatters from property during the Covid-19 pandemic.
There have been an increasing number of webinars put together by our regional committees which have been well attended along with a session on well-being which has had positive feedback. Perhaps the biggest hit was the 1954 Act webinar in June given by members of Kings Chambers and organised by Paul Barker which had a record number of attendees. I hope you enjoyed our “counsel on the couch” session; more of these are being planned.
Many thanks to all of you who responded to the latest survey regarding your experiences with the county courts. The court service has clearly not improved and your frustrations were palpable from the feedback. We provided the results of the survey, unfiltered, to our contacts at the Ministry of Justice which formed the basis of our discussions at a meeting Mathew Ditchburn and I had with them in July. As a result they are willing to engage with us to explore what can be done to address the concerns that have been raised. We will report back to you in this regard.
Next, I would like to update you on the work that has been going on behind the scenes to manage our programme of events in light of COVID-19 and give you details of the PLA’s plans for the events currently scheduled for Autumn 2020.
Postponed Annual Conference 2020
It was a huge disappointment that the PLA Annual Conference, scheduled to take place at Keble College on 19 & 20 March, had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Executive Committee had been looking forward to welcoming members to Conference to celebrate our 25th Anniversary.
Looking back at the situation, I am struck by how rapid was the chain of events.
At the end of February, members were booking the final few remaining places for Conference and the speakers were putting the finishing touches to their sessions. At the beginning of March, as the outbreak continued to gather momentum, Rebecca Campbell (ETC Chair) and Tim Power were working hard with Keble to arrange special precautions that would be required for the Conference to proceed safely. Then came the realisation on 12 March that, sadly, there could be no event at all. The Government announced lockdown a few days after the date upon which the Conference should have taken place.
The PLA reached agreement with Keble to postpone the Conference with a new date scheduled for 1 & 2 October 2020. At the time, the postponed date seemed then to allow ample time for the crisis to pass!
Since March, we have been monitoring the easing of restrictions closely and Rebecca and Tim have been in regular contact with Keble in the anticipation that the postponed event could go ahead as planned. Unfortunately, Keble has now decided to cancel all conference bookings until Spring 2021 to ensure the safety of their staff and students. This means that the postponed Conference scheduled for 1 & 2 October must now be cancelled.
Given the ongoing social distancing restrictions, it is with a heavy heart that the Executive Committee has also decided to cancel the Autumn Training Day and the PLA Annual Dinner (both scheduled to take place in London in November).
We have not taken this decision lightly. Gathering PLA members together for our flagship annual events, to socialise, network and enjoy each other’s company, is at the very heart the PLA. To cancel so many events in our 25th Anniversary year is a huge disappointment. However, given the ongoing pandemic, the safety of members remains of paramount importance.
Tim will be in touch with those members who had booked a place at the Conference. We will be offering a full refund of the ticket price but also inviting members, who are able to do so, to carry forward their booking until Conference 2021 where possible. As a not for profit organisation, this will assist greatly with our budgeting for next year’s event.
The PLA Autumn Trilogy – November 2020
Whilst we are unable to go ahead with our ‘in person’ events, the ETC have been planning a programme of online events for Autumn to ensure that we continue to offer high quality education and training for members.
Please save the date for the first (and hopefully only!) PLA Autumn Trilogy: A series of three keynote seminars that will be live streamed for all members free of charge on 10, 17 and 24 November 2020.
The ETC are finalising the programme and full details will be announced shortly.
The ETC are also turning their attention to next year to ensure Conference 2021, and our belated 25th Anniversary celebration, is an event to remember.
The summer is well underway and although you might not be spending it quite where or how you had planned, I hope you are able to enjoy it.
Chair of the PLA