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Monday Message 16.03.15

CBA Chairman’s Message:
Tony Cross QC 

Monday 16 March 2015


E: [email protected]
T: 07860 692693 

Change in definition of Instructed Advocate
Slowly but surely the efforts of our protracted labour of making our case for the Bar are bearing fruit. Last week saw very welcome confirmation that Government intend to change the definition of Instructed Advocate. This will ensure that those who do the main hearing in any case – often the trial – will be paid the trial fee.  You will find the link HERE . This cures an obvious mischief and is entirely consistent with the themes emerging from the Leveson Review about case ownership.  [It will also put paid to the iniquity that a number of our members have faced with seeing their name on the so-called annual rich list. A position on this list often reflected the fact that payments had been received on behalf of another.]
Lies Damned Lies, Statistics and time for a rise.
All the trends for the annual spend in crime are down. You will find the figures HERE.
The Bar have played their part. Now is the time for the Bar to be rewarded. Year on year our fees have been significantly cut whilst those in other parts of the private sector have had the modest comfort of inflationary rises.   Its time that we did something about it.
We have in the past so often had to face the nonsense about our “legal aid” system being the most expensive in the universe (€2 billion on legal aid vs €378 million in next highest country etc etc).  The foundation for this nonsense is misinterpretation of the Council of Europe Report (overview report HERE).
If you were ever to read the full report (as Mark Fenhalls and I have both had to do) you will see for yourself the clear health warnings on page 5 of the executive summary with all the caveats about systems and data gathering etc.  Those parts of the Report which aggregate the spending on the whole judicial system (courts, legal aid and public prosecution) show that the true story is completely different from such tendentious headlines…
The report comes with a clear ‘handle with care’ warning about the difficulties of comparing different states, with different geographical, economic, and judicial situations.  In particular, the judicial system in England and Wales is based on the adversarial system, whereas most European countries have an inquisitorial one.  Like for like comparisons with how much countries spend on the justice system only help if they include the courts, the prosecution services and legal aid.  These misleading statistics should not be used by any government looking for an excuse to make cuts to an already struggling justice system. This report shows that when you look at the whole justice system, then England and Wales spends below the European average. Our system, so lauded by Government at the GLS, costs about £1.50 per person, per week.  So in 2012, even before the most recent cuts to legal aid (and the dropping spend since), the amount spent on our entire judicial system worked out at less than the cost of a cup of coffee per person, per week – a small price to pay for justice.
And don’t just take it from me, the report of the National Audit Office Comparing International Criminal Justice Systems, published in 2012, stated: “For the period studied ‘the average total annual public budget allocated to all courts, prosecution and legal aid as a percentage of GDP per capita across Europe was 0.33 per cent. […] The expenditure of England and Wales, at 0.33 per cent, was average”.
The Leveson review sets out a template for reform that promises huge savings if properly implemented by the Government.  So we welcome the recent public commitment to the recommendations set out in the Review.  But if it is to work then the Government must find a way to fund the EGPS and the ‘duty of engagement’ to take but two examples.  It is absolutely critical that the next Government realises that there have to be talented and able professionals left to operate the system.  Unless the Government realises that rates of pay have dropped too far then the hemorrhaging of talent from the junior Bar will continue apace.  Talented people laden with huge debts will have no interest in coming to the Bar to do publicly funded work.  All this will store up huge problems for the future.
It’s time for a pay rise.

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