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The 20th anniversary Legal Wales Conference, held at the Hilton Hotel, Cardiff on Friday 6th October 2023, has been hailed a resounding success, which has further enhanced the stature of the annual event as the most prestigious legal event in Wales.

A record number of delegates – totalling over 200 – attended to hear from speakers who were all clearly honoured and touched to be invited to join delegates in the capital city. Headline speakers included the Counsel General for Wales, the Lady Chief Justice for Northern Ireland, and Lady Carr DBE, Lady Chief Justice for England and Wales and Lord Lloyd Jones.

First conference address from the ‘Lady Chief Justice of Wales’

The Conference was closed by Lady Carr the newly appointed Lady Chief Justice. In her first speech since being sworn she described herself as the ‘Lady Chief Justice of Wales’ and referred to her family connections with Wales, the Carr family being former proprietors of the Western Mail newspaper.

Lady Carr referred in her speech to the need to improve the condition of the court and tribunals estate in Wales (echoing the Counsel General’s speech presented earlier in the programme), the continued development of facilities for the use of the Welsh language and recruitment and training of judges and the tribunals judiciary to ensure familiarity with new Welsh Law, as well as the use of artificial intelligence to promote Welsh language accessibility. She said:

“At one time automated language translation was perhaps not entirely accurate. Recent developments, though, have demonstrated significant improvements in automated translation. The availability of neural machine translation, a form of AI, has brought the possibility of low-cost, speedy and accurate translation within the reach of courts across the world. Such translation could be used to enable judges, parties, witnesses, as well as members of the public attending court, to take part effectively in and access proceedings in the language most appropriate to their individual circumstances.

“It could also be used to facilitate media access in Welsh to all proceedings in our courts through, for instance, automated judgment translation; something my great-grandfather and his uncle would undoubtedly have appreciated. The central point though is that we should consider, perhaps more than we have in the past, how we can use targeted, discrete, technological innovation to improve access to justice.”

Lady Carr concluded on a personal note, as she said: ‘perhaps my greatest claim to Welsh fame is the fact that my grandfather, Harry Carr, kept the wicket for Glamorgan.  I can assure you that I will be batting for Wales’.

In the opening keynote address of the day, the Counsel General for Wales, Mick Antoniw MS, congratulated Legal Wales on an ‘exceptional programme’ that ‘reflects the changes developing to the legal environment in Wales; and by this I mean the development of the Welsh legal jurisdiction, the growth of the body of Welsh law and English law, developments around the training of lawyers and indeed the judiciary, the teaching of law and the regulation of the profession in Wales’. He added:

“I am really encouraged by the agenda in today’s conference, which seeks to understand and analyse the impact of this process of change. Over the past couple of years there have been what I consider to be significant changes in not only the perception of Welsh law, the Senedd, and the profession in Wales.

The presence in Wales now of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority is important, as is the growing stature of the Law Society Wales and the establishment of a National Board for Wales. And we are seeing a real commitment from the likes of the Legal Services Board and the Law Commission to their responsibilities to Wales.

“The establishment as part of the interministeral arrangements within the UK of a inter ministerial group on justice is I consider also a recognition of a Welsh jurisdicition and the importance of devolved functions as an integral part of the delivery of justice in Wales.”

Both Lady Carr DBE and the Counsel General’s speech can be found at the back of the conference delegate pack, here.

Jonathan Rees KC, Chair of the Legal Wales Foundation, said:

“The 2023 Conference was a resounding celebration of our 20th anniversary and has set the bar high for the next 20 years. As the Conference goes from strength to strength, our ambition for the future is to continue broadening our platform for speakers of national and international status and expertise to address legal matters relating not only to Wales but also to the world around us.”

Several other distinguished keynote speakers addressed the conference, including Mr Justice Francis who reflected on his six years as Family Division Presiding Judge for Wales, and Her Excellency Judge Joanna Korner KC, the British Judge at the International Criminal Court.

Speakers took part in a wide-ranging conference which covered a wide range of legal topics of relevance to Wales and saw the plenary and breakout sessions at full capacity. Sessions included updates from the Law Council of Wales, and the National Board for Wales, the criminal justice system in Wales, public law sessions (including Wales and Covid-19 Emergency Public Health Legislation), the launch of the new Dispute Resolution Centre for Wales, legal services regulation and much more. 

Lady Carr, along with the Lady Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Dame Siobhan Keegan, presented the Sir Samuel Evans Centenary Prizes to students who had achieved the best undergraduate law degree results at Welsh Universities – an unprecedented moment on stage with two lady chief justices standing alongside visibly honoured graduates.

‘Unlawful Killings’

HH Wendy Joseph KC, stole the room at the evening dinner, following the conference. The former Old Bailey judge, who was brought up in Cardiff and the author of ‘Unlawful Killings: Life, Love and Murder: Trials at the Old Bailey‘, captivated and entertained the 100+ audience as she spoke of her transition from Senior Circuit Judge to best-selling author, and her reflection on the current state of the criminal justice system in England and Wales.

Huw William, Chair of the Programme Committee for the anniversary conference remarked:

“I was a member of the programme committee for the first Legal Wales Conference, and I am delighted to be been involved long enough to see the event grow to become an established part of the Welsh legal scene. It continues in its original aim of providing a platform for speakers of national and international status and expertise to speak about legal matters of relevance to Wales”.

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Legal Wales Conference 2024

Planning is already underway for the Legal Wales Conference 2024, which will take place on 11 October 2024 at a venue to be confirmed outside Cardiff.

With thanks to the 2023 conference sponsors & supporters

This year’s conference would not have happened without the generous support of the speakers, sponsors and exhibitors.

The Conference committee would like to thank headline conference sponsor Browne Jacobson, and the dinner and drinks reception sponsor, 30 Park Place.

It would also like to thank the conference lunch sponsor, 11 KBW, and exhibitors: Watkins & Gunn, Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership (WRAP), TSR Legal Recruitment, University of Wales Trinity St David’s, the Pro Bono Committee for Wales, and Griffin Books.

The media partner was Legal News Wales, with Conference Director, Emma Waddingham.

Delegate pack & speeches

To download a copy of the Delegate Pack, containing speaker profiles, the programme and information on sponsors and exhibitors, click here.

The pack also includes a copy of the speeches made by the Counsel General for Wales, Mick Antoniw MS and Lady Carr DBE.

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