The Bar Council has welcomed the Ministry of Justice announcement that fees for barristers in cases involving pre-recorded cross examination of vulnerable witnesses (known as section 28 cases) will be increased, in recognition of the complexity of the work.

Through consultation with the Bar’s circuit leaders, the Bar Council had found a widespread concern that the inadequate fees failed to compensate for the work required and this – along with the negative impact on diary management – was a factor contributing to the shortage of RASSO (rape and serious sexual offence) counsel.

The Bar Council has also welcomed the Justice Committee inquiry into the use of pre-recorded cross examination.

Commenting on the announcement, Nick Vineall KC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:

“We welcome this increase which goes some way to reflecting the amount of work likely to be required from a barrister doing a section 28 hearing. The inadequate fees to date have been a contributory factor in the shortage of counsel for rape and serious sexual offence (RASSO) cases.  

“It is also right that the use of section 28 hearings is to be reviewed by the Justice Select Committee. Although there are clearly cases where pre-recorded cross-examination is desirable, it should not be the default position. Its overuse may lead to lower conviction rates because recorded evidence may not be considered by juries to be as compelling as evidence given in front of them.”