CBA Monday Message 15.10.18
‘THE CLOCK IS TICKING’
‘I was in tears last night. I know it’s silly. But I started the law conversion when ***** was 2 months old. I got into £30k of debt from professional loans. I worked so hard to get to where I am, as we all did, we all slogged it out, got into debt, struggled through pupillage. We’ve all missed holidays, nights out, family events, given up weekends, given up sleep, given up our sanity at times.
And now the choice to carry on doing this job I love, this important job, is being being taken away from me by a disgraceful fees system.
And it’s breaking my heart.’
Junior Barrister. Female. Less than 10 years call.
We are now living with the new scheme. The problems emerging are obvious, serious and must be addressed. Our response sets out out in a thoughtful, comprehensive and rationally unanswerable way what needs to be done.
- Fees for guilty pleas and cracks are far below what they should be.
- Refreshers for juniors are too low.
- A ‘Hatton Garden’ type burglary, or indeed any burglary, will always pay less than a shoplifting. Justify that.
- A case with thousands of pages is paid as if it has less than 200.
- Fees for violent disorder and affray have been cut.
- ‘Shaken baby’ cases with multiple experts are paid as if a minor punch up.
- Unused material, disclosed because it is of potential relevance to the identified defence, is unremunerated. As before.
- The budget for Crown Court Advocacy has been cut but by more than £100m over the last 10 years.
- The £15million promised, will mean only £8.6million on 2017/18 figures This is not remotely enough to fix the broken fee system.
This is why a junior barrister sends a message like the one above; a private message to friends, all the more compelling and authentic because it wasn’t drafted for a wider audience. It moved one of its recipients so much that it is now public (with permission).The clock is ticking.
The government will need a little time to respond. But we cannot go on like this.
Do we want a criminal justice system where the outcome of your case depends upon whether you can afford to pay? That is the direction of travel. All in positions of influence, all those who read and recommended the Secret Barrister book, all those who care about the rule of law need to speak out. The present funding position is unsustainable.
Heads of Chambers will meet at the end of this month to discuss the way ahead, but unless the full £15m is honoured, and that the months of delay are fully compensated, resumption of action seems inevitable.
We need significant investment in prosecution fees too. This message has already been taken to Max Hill QC, the incoming DPP; it comes as no surprise to him.
I visited Aylesbury Crown Court last week. HHJ Sheridan was most welcoming. He listened to concerns that have been raised. And opened his courtroom over lunch for an ‘open mike’ session for barristers in the court building to air their views. Many were very positive.
On Tuesday (16th) at 12.30pm, CBA members are invited to access a webinar on the disclosure of unused material in criminal cases. Gregor McGill, CPS, Chief Constable of Surrey Nick Ephgrave, are on the panel with two senior criminal solicitors, to discuss the work of the National Disclosure Improvement Forum. .
Applications are invited for awards from . Awards of up to £5000 are available. Applicants must be under 7 years’ call. The scheme is designed to assist practising barristers from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. Please encourage your junior tenants and pupils to apply. Closing date Wednesday 31st October.
Finally, please vote for the excellent CBA endorsed candidates for the Bar Council, James Keeley and Eleanor Mawrey.