Counsel’s Fees in Criminal Cases in the Magistrates’ Courts
The Bar Council has received enquiries from several sets of
chambers in relation to letters and approaches from firms of
solicitors on the subject of counsel's fees for work in
Magistrates' Courts in criminal cases. We are writing to correct
what appears to be a common misunderstanding as to the payment for
this work, and also to draw attention to various relevant documents
which are to be found on the Bar Council's website.
The way in which solicitors are remunerated for the conduct of
Magistrates' Court hearings in criminal cases has changed recently.
Whereas a separate fee used to be paid for this work, it is now
included in the fee paid to the solicitors under the Litigators'
Graduated Fee Scheme. Some firms of solicitors have written to sets
of chambers claiming that they have no fee from which to pay
counsel for attending Magistrates' Courts. This is not correct, as
the Legal Services Commission has confirmed. Solicitors are paid
for this work.
On the basis of this incorrect statement, the solicitors' firms
concerned have asked counsel to conduct hearings in the
Magistrates' Courts for no fee, in return for which the solicitors'
firms state that instructions to conduct the consequent Crown Court
trials will, in the absence of unforeseen circumstances, be sent to
members of chambers (who may or may not be the counsel who
conducted the Magistrates' Court hearing).
You will find copies of the following on the Bar Council's
1. The Protocol for the instruction of counsel in Magistrates'
Court cases: /media/10193/remmc1.pdf. Page 3
of the Protocol sets out recommended minimum rates.
2. A letter from the Chairman of the Bar Council to all heads of
chambers in respect of the Protocol: /media/10196/remmc2.pdf. That
letter refers to the duty imposed on heads of chambers by paragraph
404.2 of the Code of Conduct and points out that requiring junior
counsel to conduct cases at rates significantly below the protocol
is likely to amount to a breach of this duty.
3. Guidance on referral fees:
As appears from paragraph 8(8) of the guidance, the view of the
Professional Practice Committee of the Bar Council is that the
acceptance of an improperly low proportion of the fee paid under a
graduated fee scheme can amount to a referral fee.
If you have any further questions concerning these issues, please
do not hesitate to contact the Bar Council.
Professional Practice Committee &