Bar Chairman Welcomes "A Viable Pathway for the Criminal Justice System"
27 March 2014
The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and
Wales, has welcomed
today's announcement by the Ministry of Justice of revised plans
advocacy including deferring implementation of any cuts in the
Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS) for at least a year. The announcement
months of mounting concern among the legal profession and beyond
effects of the Government's proposed cuts to legal aid for Crown
on access to justice and on the provision of legal representation
skilled and experienced advocates.
Nicholas Lavender QC, Chairman of the Bar,
"The Bar has consistently opposed the Government's deeply
unpopular plans to cut once again the fees paid for Crown Court
advocacy. This has been reflected up and down the country on each
of the circuits. It is hardly surprising that, after successive
waves of cuts to legal aid, barristers have felt demoralised and
devalued when faced with the prospect of having to bear the brunt
of the highest cuts anywhere in the public services.
"Yet the efficient administration of justice, particularly in the
most complex cases, depends on having advocates of the highest
quality. It is in the public interest to ensure that people of
ability at different stages in their careers can develop successful
practices at the Bar. That is why I believe that today's
announcement points to a better future from the one which many have
feared, and is to be welcomed. This is a viable pathway not just
for the Bar, but more importantly, for the criminal justice
"The Bar Council has always recognised that the Government
has had to face tough decisions in making savings in public
expenditure. The Ministry of Justice has not been immune from those
difficult choices. But legal aid barristers who are working at the
front line of public service, often in difficult and demanding
circumstances, have too often found themselves at the sharp end of
"As we have suggested previously, a deferment in AGFS changes will
allow everyone to take stock of the outcome of the independent
review of criminal advocacy by Sir Bill Jeffrey. We have always
been willing to look at ways of improving criminal proceedings with
a view to streamlining procedures and making them more efficient.
We have much to contribute to Sir Brian Leveson's review and look
forward to working with Sir Brian.
"We welcome the Ministry's decision to commission a study of the
economics of practice at the criminal Bar, which will take account
of previous funding cuts and their effects on barristers and sets
of chambers. The results could provide valuable evidence on which
to base future policy decisions affecting the structure of the Bar
and avoid recourse to further salami slicing of legal aid to
"We think that there may be better ways of arranging for the
payment of fees in the most complex cases than under the current
VHCC scheme, so we welcome the Ministry's announcement of the
opportunity to re-consider that scheme following a resumption of
normal working relationships. Indeed the Bar Council developed an
alternative GFS Plus scheme some years ago.
"In the meantime it is up to each barrister what work they do. The
Bar Council recognises that at the revised rates approved by
Parliament last autumn some barristers may be unwilling to
undertake work on these cases. That is a matter for them. We will
respect their right to make that decision. There is no objection in
principle to barristers undertaking VHCCs, if that is what they
choose to do."
Nicholas Lavender QC added:
"The Government has today demonstrated that it has listened to the
Bar's concerns and addressed a number of them. It is also testament
to the profession's commitment to speaking with one voice in making
sincere and evidence-based arguments, steeped in the public
"On behalf of the Bar Council, I want to see us build on today's
announcement by the Ministry of Justice to ensure that the criminal
Bar has a sustainable future. There are, and will remain,
challenging times ahead. We cannot alter that, but we must address
them. By doing so I believe that we can maintain a strong and
independent Bar which is properly valued for its unique
contribution to the administration of justice.
"That is why, in the interests of building sustainable and high
quality legal representation, we should take this opportunity to
move forwards, by engaging with the reviews which have been
announced today, resuming normal working relationships with our
partners in the criminal justice system and calling off any further
days of action. We can do so in the confidence that our voice has
Notes to Editors
1. For further information, please contact the Bar Council Press
Office on 020 7222 2525.
2. To read the Government's announcement, please click here.
3. To read previous statements and press releases on the
'Transforming Legal Aid' consultation, please click here.
4. The Bar
Council represents barristers in England and Wales.
The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory
Fair access to justice for all
The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across
the profession, and
The development of business opportunities for barristers at home
The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the
Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions
through the independent Bar Standards