The Bar Council recently hosted its Criminal Legal Aid Billing seminar aimed at helping criminal practitioners receive payments faster and reduce the risk of fees being rejected.

With grateful thanks to our speakers: Tom Little QC (9 Gough Chambers); Neil Jackson (M K Law); Mike Harris (Chambers People); Elisabeth Cooper and Samera Naji (LAA).

Here are some top tips from our speakers:

CPS fees - Scheme E

  • If the case is listed for trial but there is an issue that needs to be dealt with, much of it outside of court, endorse the hearing record sheet each day with what has taken place to demonstrate “meaningful progress”. You will then meet the fee criteria that the trial has started.
  • Claim for reviewing unused material that is over 3 hours, and for ‘counsel only’ material. You only need to submit a work log for the time reading the unused, not a worklog for the entire case.
  • Claim for time reviewing served material of body worn footage and CCTV, with a worklog for those hours. (Tapes and footage; the defendant’s interview; 999 calls; and evidence in chief cannot be claimed for).
  • Claim for: unduly lenient sentence advices; rape acquittal advices; and Terminating Ruling advices.
  • Depending on page count, you may be paid more by claiming for the more minor offence. E.g. in a murder case where there is also possession of an offensive weapon, you may be better off claiming under the possession offence due to its lower page count threshold.
  • Any case with a Mental Health Restriction Order should be claimed as a Class A, no matter what the offence code says.

Defence fees – Crown Court

Scheme 12: cases with legal aid representation order from 17 September 2020

  • Explore the LAA’s new crime billing training website - click on “Crime” / “Go to Course” / “Crime Billing” / “AGFS training guide” which includes links to all the key documents and calculators.
  • To access the Statutory Instrument in a single document, call up the 2013 S.I. - click “latest available (revised)” and it will populate it with all the updates.
  • You get a cracked trial fee whenever it occurs between the day the defendant first enters a not guilty plea and the trial date. “Thirds” no longer apply. The cracked trial fee is now the same as the trial basic fee.
  • Claim for all hearings. Under scheme 9 the first four standard appearances were rolled up within the basic fee. In Schemes 10, 11, and 12 you claim for every hearing.
  • Note: several of the page count thresholds where you can claim special preparation have changed.
  • Unused material is paid for cracks and trials. Claim for 0-3 hours on the standard claim and you will be paid the fixed fee. Claim for 3-10 hours on form AU1 stating what the material was. Claim for over 10 hours with a work log and the material. (You cannot claim as unused: witness statements, documentary or pictorial exhibits and records of interviews, because these are within the definition of Pages of Prosecution Evidence).
  • If you do a Bail Hearing in the magistrates’ court, give the LAA an attendance note with the T-number of the Crown Court case plus client’s name, date of hearing, name of advocate and alleged offence.
  • If you request a redetermination don’t write on your appeal form, ‘if you reject this, I want written reasons’. If your appeal is rejected, you need to apply using the Request Written Reasons functionality on the CCD (Crown Court Defence) billing system. 
  • Committal for Sentence hearings: for serious and complicated cases, rather than claiming the £152 fixed fee, you can apply to the Criminal Cases Unit (CCU) for assessment for a higher fee, providing your evidence of the work done. In some cases you may also be able to explain that it should be treated as a Newton Hearing.
  • The Common Platform is being rolled out across different courts. You need to open an account on the Common Platform and provide a mobile phone number. When billing a Common Platform case you need to quote the URN number.
  • When billing a Court of Appeal case you need to supply your DUNS number and your SME (small or medium enterprise) status. Chambers should register for these with Dun & Bradstreet

Defence fees – magistrates’ court

  • Provide your times (in six minute units) to help the solicitor to claim the correct fee.
  • If chasing the solicitor firm for payment: provide the URN number with your fee notes, so that the firm can easily look up the case; ensure any chambers software generated chase-up emails go to the email address of the individual at the firm who does the fee payments, not the firm’s general email address; better still, pick up the phone and develop a relationship with the person who pays the fees.

The video of the Bar Council’s 25 May 2021 criminal billing seminar is now online on the Bar Council’s YouTube channel

The next seminars are on family billing on 9 June and civil billing on 16 June. Sign up here.

Adrian Vincent, Head of Policy: Legal Practice and Remuneration

Bar Council