CBA Monday Message 26.02.18
This week saw the greatest proposed change in fee structure in 20 years for the publicly funded defence Bar. Please see our press release HERE. This message comes from all officers of the CBA.
The reforms are announced at a time when the public is seeing the crumbling justice system fail every day. The disclosure debacles are just one very high profile example of the damage being done to our once great system from chronic and deliberate lack of investment.
We have not received any positive feedback about this scheme to date. Could those who think it benefits them please let us know, even if anonymously. Our concerns are that the membership considers this scheme a retrograde step and a cut. If this is wrong and there are those who benefit from it please tell us.
The CBA and Criminal Legal Aid solicitors groups have united in a formal coalition to seek reformation and investment in criminal legal aid generally. We must have a united front with our sister profession in order to defeat the degradation of the system and the destruction of our professions. We know that our colleagues are waiting for the outcome of a judicial review of their recently cut LGFS scheme.
We all want the same thing – proper remuneration for the important work we do and a robust, thriving system that is based on principle and not politics. No other profession has faced the same cuts as we have – 40% in 20 years. The rates in 2018 are worse in real terms that the rates in 1998 and the volume of required work much, much higher. That is not progress.
This scheme is due to be implemented on 1st April 2018.
THE WAY FORWARD – ACTIONS:
Our Executive Committee meets on Tuesday (tomorrow) night to discuss our response to this announcement from the MOJ. We will discuss how we assess the impact of the scheme. We know some sets have analysed data already against the initial consultation figures. Any information we can be provided with from sets and individual barristers as to the impact will be invaluable. Please send any views or figures you would like the Committee to consider on Tuesday to [email protected].
Heads of Chambers Meeting
A Heads of Chambers meeting is called. Can all Heads of Chambers please contact [email protected] by 1st March with their views of this scheme. Arrangements will be notified when a suitable venue is in place.
In addition, there will be a general meeting of the Criminal Bar, Solicitors’ groups, Transform Justice and other ‘stakeholders’ in this process in March. The venue, exact date and time will be notified to you by press release.
Do remember that all our public and social media communications are available as open source material for anyone to read. We as a profession must speak together to decide a way forward.
We are all still absorbing the implications of these reforms. The consultation response has some significant differences to the initial document and the stated aims of the process. We are also studying the impact statement which is not straightforward.
There were 408 responses to the consultation. We have over 4000 members. This is the designated email address: [email protected]. Your response need not be lengthy – a summary of your views is fine. It is truly important that you read the documents and form your own view.
Major concerns that are emerging are the ‘cost neutrality’ basis of the scheme, the complete lack of investment, the details of the banding system, the loss of PPE and the lack of payment or provision for payment for important disclosed material.
We would also value any input you have on the practical aspects of the fee reform from clerks.
Some iniquities have been removed by the new structure. The second day of trial will now be paid, there is no cut to refreshers after 40 days. Appearance fees and sentences will now always be paid at a higher rate than originally suggested and with no cap on the number. However it has been pointed out to us by many juniors that their Chambers protocols ensure they are paid for these hearings in any event and there remain serious doubts about the general sustainability and progress of a career in the criminal law. There is still nowhere near enough money for criminal legal aid. See this article about our recruitment crisis.
One of the main themes is the ‘rearranging chairs on the titanic’ aspect of the reforms. This is without doubt the central flaw in all legal aid reform without investment. Sir Henry Brooke wrote to us in December in these terms “I don’t anticipate that the AGFS announcement will amount to much more than rearranging the deck-chairs”. It may be that, as ever, he was right and our ship is still going down. Whilst the government has committed to a review of the scheme this may not take place until two years after implementation.
It is our firm view that we must campaign as a united group with all our colleagues from solicitors to court staff and in consultation with the judiciary to reverse the terrible decline in our system of justice. This will take time to consider and we do not have a lot of time. When and what we do is a decision we will have to take collectively. Doing nothing is not an option.
On 19th February Vikki Kerlyof Garden Court died from cancer having been diagnosed in June. She was called in 2005 and was a vibrant and talented member of the Bar who will be greatly missed and commemorated by her friends and colleagues. We send our condolences to her set and to her family.
We were deeply saddened to learn that Sir Paul Jenkins KCB QC, Master Treasurer of Middle Temple, died this morning. He was kind and generous man, and an extremely talented lawyer. Many members of the bar and the middle temple will remember the support and guidance he gave to barristers senior and junior. Our thoughts are with partner and his many friends
Women In Law
The 1st March 2018 will see the launch event of “Women In Law”. This event is now sold out. This organisation sets out to connect and promote professional women across the criminal justice sector. Its patron is The Rt. Hon. Lady Justice Heather Hallett who will speak at the launch. Find details of the organisation and how to join it HERE.