Bar Council Responds to Court of Appeal Judgment in R v Crawley

21 May 2014

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has responded to the Court of Appeal's Judgment today in R v Crawley which addresses the consequences of the fact that as was common ground there could not be a fair trial when the case was supposed to be tried at Southwark Crown Court.

The Bar Council highlights the fact that the trial would have gone ahead if the Government had not decided to cut the fees paid to the defence advocates in Very High Cost Cases (VHCCs) by 30%.

Instead, and as a result of the Government's decision, the barristers who had been contracted to act for the Defendants were given the choice of accepting a 30% cut in their agreed fees or terminating their contracts. Faced with this choice, they terminated their contracts, and no other barristers have been willing to enter into contracts at these reduced rates.

Nicholas Lavender QC, Chairman of the Bar, said:

"The Bar Council remains, as it always has been, willing to talk with the Ministry
of Justice about potential solutions to the present difficulties which, as the
Court of Appeal has said (paragraph 30 of the Judgment), 'clearly flow from
[the Lord Chancellor's] decision to reduce the funding' for VHCC cases.

"The risks involved in that decision were pointed out to the Government. For
example: the Bar Council stated last year that introducing the 30% cut would
mean 'that the Government is dangerously abrogating its responsibility to
provide effective legal representation for those facing trial'.

In a debate in the House of Lords about cuts in legal aid for VHCC cases, on 11
December 2013, all speakers spoke against the cuts, including Lord Faulks QC -
now a Minister at the Ministry of Justice - who said: 'these further cuts
really threaten our justice system'; and in relation to the criminal justice
system, that: 'Its reputation, hard-won as it is, is now at serious risk.'

"It is a shame that the Government did not heed the warnings it received. It is also a shame that the Government has tried to put the blame for its own actions onto barristers, when the truth is that no-one can be criticised for deciding not accept a 30%
cut. As the Court of Appeal has said (paragraph 30), 'they are fully entitled
to take that view.'

"We agree entirely with the Court of Appeal (paragraph 57), which says 'it is critical that there remains a thriving cadre of advocates capable of undertaking all types of
publicly funded work.' The Bar provides such a cadre of advocates."

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors

1. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.

2. To read the Judgment of the Court of Appeal, click here.

3. The  Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes: 

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • 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 and abroad. 

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 Board