CBA Monday Message 17.09.18

Chair’s Update:
Chris Henley QC

The reality of the new fees is beginning to be felt. Whilst the information has been publicly available since February it can seem rather abstract until cases are billed, and actual case comparisons with the previous regime are made. The [email protected] e-mail is receiving a steady stream of examples of very significant fee reductions for cracked trials in particular. In one example the old fee would have been almost six times more. The comments which accompany the figures can be easily imagined. Please respond to the ongoing consultation, it is very important CBA members respond in large numbers.

FEES FOR PROSECUTION ADVOCACY

I have been educating myself and listening to concerns about fee levels for prosecution advocacy with various ‘experts’ who sit on the CBA Executive Committee in preparation for my first meeting with the new DPP. Mary Aspinall-Miles has been particularly helpful. Two things have become immediately apparent. First, many fees are far too low, causing unreasonable discrepancies between those who prosecute and those who defend. A good example of this is the £55 trial stand out fee. How is this proper remuneration, perhaps for having prepared a 5 day trial concerning a serious sexual offence, or viable compensation for having cleared the diary in anticipation of a week long trial? The defence will in future receive £350 when a trial is stood out, whatever the circumstances; not a fortune but closer to where we should be.  £55 is frankly ridiculous.

The second observation is different; it relates to the structure of CPS fees for trials. (Put to one side the fact that brief fees in many categories are too low). The CPS fee scheme pays 100% of the trial brief if a case cracks, and also pays significantly enhanced brief fees once a certain evidence threshold is passed, which varies category to category. Both structural features recognise obvious professional truths. Cases that crack usually require the same level of preparation as a trial, particularly if the case is resolved on the day of trial or after significant pre-trial argument, the swearing in of the jury having been delayed. There is also the negative consequence that work which might have occupied several weeks has disappeared. The second feature deals with the fact that a case with several thousand pages of evidence takes more preparation time than a case which comprises a few hundred; whether the evidence is served digitally or in hard copy being irrelevant. There is nothing ‘modern’ about pretending otherwise, and paying flat brief fees, as the new AGFS scheme does, with no escape, or enhancement, regardless of volumes of material.

Serious investment is needed in fees for both prosecution and defence advocacy.

MAGISTRATES’ COURTS

A survey conducted by the Young Barristers Committee a couple of years ago, found that far too often pupils and junior tenants undertaking work in the Magistrates’ Courts are not being paid. A fee will be agreed but the money doesn’t arrive.  When pressed by those affected, who cannot afford to forgo even these very modest amounts, chambers sometimes explain that they don’t want to risk losing more lucrative Crown Court work by complaining. This issue was given a great deal of publicity when it was first raised. The YBC, the CBA, and the Bar Council (through Rem Com) drafted a protocol which was discussed with the solicitor representative bodies for endorsement. This initiative needs a final push to get it over the line. We will provide further information on this shortly.

In the meantime I would like to hear from any pupils or juniors for whom this is a continuing problem, on [email protected]

SOCIAL MOBILITY

Chris Daw QC has made an inspiring film about where he came from and what he has achieved, challenging the lazy stereotypes about our profession. Many of us mentor, advise and participate in schemes to encourage children from ordinary backgrounds to believe that the Bar is open to them. Chris’ film, which was first shown on the One Show on BBC 1 has been viewed thousands of times and should be shared as widely as possible.  You can view it here

ARCHBOLD v BLACKSTONES

Lord Justice Hickinbottom, the Chair of the Judicial Library Committee has recently circulated to all Judges and Recorders a note which says ‘I am now pleased to confirm that, as a result of discussions with OUP and Thomson Reuters, for the forthcoming legal year, every Crown courtroom will be provided with one copy of each book. This will enable us to conduct a meaningful review, which will inform the decision on which book will be provided from October 2019.‘ So whether ‘Blue is the Colour’ or if you’re a Red, there should be peace and harmony on the court terraces for at least the next 12 months. Wouldn’t it be lovely if it was ever thus………

View more news