Responding to the Ministry of Justice’s Criminal Legal Aid Review: An accelerated package of measures amending the criminal legal aid fee schemes Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said: “These consultation proposals set out a modest, stop-gap improvement in specific areas of criminal defence fees. This is a welcome, first step, as the Lord Chancellor acknowledges, in recognising the crucial role of defence legal practitioners to the delivery of justice in an increasingly complex and onerous system.
“All those involved in delivering criminal justice must be paid a fair and sustainable amount for the important work they do. We believe this interim consultation is an acknowledgement by the Government that the current rates of pay for defence advocates and solicitors are far too low to maintain a functioning criminal justice system.
“The Bar Council notes that the Government is identifying new money to pay for work done in these accelerated areas and will not be taking it from other areas to fund these uplifts.
"For the Bar, the Government is proposing:
- additional payments for high volumes of prosecution evidence;
- increased payments for advocates on cracked trials of 100% of the brief fee;
- for the first time, payments for defence advocates to review unused material.
“The critical issues of the inadequacy of brief fees and hourly rates will be addressed in the ongoing wider Criminal Legal Aid Review. The Bar Council, the Young Barristers’ Committee, the Circuit Leaders and the Criminal Bar Association together have been driving hard for the Government to recognise the vital part that our members play in our criminal justice system. We will continue to engage in the wider review and are encouraging and helping our members to engage directly with the Ministry of Justice.
“I am pleased that the Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice overtly refer to the need for sustainability and career progression, fairness and justice. Of course, the Government must also recognise that defence solicitors are fundamental to the operation of a functioning criminal justice system. They too must be remunerated properly for the work they do. Like us, their hourly rates are so low that their profession will not survive unless rates are significantly raised in the wider review.
“Greater investment is necessary across the whole criminal justice system, which is in severe need of repair. The Bar Council will study the detail of the consultation and will respond in due course.”
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