Urgent Call for Evidence Current Payment Scheme for Criminal Legal Aid – 29.04.21

This is an urgent call for evidence for the members of the Criminal Bar to come forward with their own evidence as to how the current payment scheme for criminal legal aid does not represent fair remuneration for the work that they do.

Please see this linked document from the Bar Council which will form an interim response to the Independent Criminal Legal Aid Review (‘CLAR’), following the release by the Ministry of Justice of the Data Compendium. This has led to extremely troubling conclusions which all of us at the Criminal Bar have been stating clearly and consistently for, at least, the last five years regarding the dire state of the profession after years of real-term cuts to fees.

Bar Council Interim Response to the Criminal Legal Aid Review Call for Evidence April 2021 

The Data Compendium offers a concrete platform from which to make, once again, the case for extra funding to support fee increases across the criminal legal aid payment scheme for advocates without which the haemorrhaging of talented criminal barristers will continue, leaving insufficient numbers to prosecute and defend and removing any semblance of a functioning public service for criminal justice.

The current fees are insufficient to sustain the profession and CLAR needs to recommend significant increases across the board if there is any prospect of ensuring the continuation of an independent criminal bar.

The interim response from the Bar Council is being distributed to the profession to assist all criminal barristers and chambers to submit their own response to the CLAR call for evidence. The CBA is currently preparing its owns response as well as a series of other requests which need to be implemented; however, we also need members of the profession to participate and submit their own evidence.

The deadline is currently 7th May. Please send your responses as soon as possible. 

The Criminal Bar Association, working together with the Bar Council, will seek to extend that deadline to 21st June to tie in with the completion of a series of meetings, Sir Christopher Bellamy, Chair of the Review, intends to hold with barristers across the jurisdiction. 

In the introduction to the Bar Council document, you will find a brief history which sets out the principles which must underpin the work of the Independent Review. Retention of experienced barristers is a significant problem and we have an aging population which is not being replaced. Remuneration rates for junior barristers are extremely poor. However, the more experienced a junior becomes is not reflected in a significant increase in fees. Profits tend to plateau and there is no sense of a structured career progression.

Without an increase in legal aid fee rates for criminal barristers, the existing profession will wither and it will become the preserve of the privileged few. We cannot allow a winding back of the clock on generations of endeavour by the Criminal Bar which has made this a diverse profession of talented criminal advocates fit to serve the public in the 21st century.

Help us with your evidence to help us secure the pay increases we all need to survive and to continue with our calling to serve all members of the public, without fear or favour.

Yours,

James Mulholland QC

Chair, The Criminal Bar Association

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