Statement from Bar Leaders on Very High Costs Cases

1 May 2014

The leaders of the Bar, who represent barristers in England and Wales, have published the following joint statement:

Very High Costs Cases (VHCCs) are the most substantial, complex and difficult cases to be tried in the Crown Court.  They are cases where the trial is expected to last more than 60 days.  Skilled and experienced advocates are required to present these cases.

In April 2013 the Government announced its intention to cut the fees paid to advocates conducting VHCC cases by 30%.  We opposed this proposal, as did many others.

The cut was introduced with effect from December 2013.  In a debate in the House of Lords on 11 December 2013 all speakers opposed the cut, including Lord Faulks QC, who is now a Minister of State at the Ministry for Justice. 

Lord Faulks QC said: "these further cuts really threaten our justice system".

Lord Faulks QC added, in relation to the criminal justice system, that: "Its reputation, hard-won as it is, is now at serious risk."

Each advocate who had signed a contract to undertake a VHCC case was presented by the Government with a choice: either to accept a 30% cut in their fees or to terminate their contract.  They chose to terminate their contracts. 

Since then, we understand that no barrister has signed a new contract to undertake a VHCC at the reduced rates.

We stated on 27 March 2014, on the day we reached agreement with the Government, and we repeat:

  • Whilst it is an individual choice for any barrister as to what work they choose to do, there is no objection, in principle to barristers undertaking VHCCs.

  • There is no reason why barristers who want to work on VHCCs should not do so.


Nicholas Lavender QC
, Chairman of the Bar Council

Nigel Lithman QC, Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association

John Elvidge QC, Leader of the North Eastern Circuit

Sarah Forshaw QC, Leader of the South Eastern Circuit

Andrew Langdon QC, Leader of the Western Circuit

Paul Lewis QC, Leader of the Wales and Chester Circuit

Andrew O'Byrne QC, Leader of the Northern Circuit

Mark Wall QC, Leader of the Midland Circuit

                                                              
                                                               
     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. 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.