MoJ’s criminal bar pay proposals under fire over fears baby barristers will lose out

Legal aid changes described as ‘a nasty whack for junior hacks’

barristers

It is well-known that crime doesn’t pay at the bar. But perhaps that will change with the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) newly proposed changes to barrister pay.

A consultation paper launched yesterday — which covers lawyers defending alleged criminals in publicly-funded Crown Court cases — contains a number of changes to what is considered a complex scheme. These include reducing the “counting pages” method for working out payments and instead “classifying offences based on the typical amount of work required in each case”, focusing on the seriousness and complexity of a case.

The proposals also suggest restoring separate payments for plea and trial preparation hearings, sentence and mentions, and payment for the second day of every trial.

Bar officials are hopeful these proposed changes to the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS) will benefit the criminal bar. Duncan McCombe, the incoming chairman of the Young Barristers’ Committee, said:

It goes without saying that no scheme is going to be absolutely perfect. There are a few modest drops in the base amounts for payments for some cases. But the clear advantage is that young barristers will be paid for their time in court, rather than being paid on an arbitrary basis, and will paid for each appearance rather than feeling like every other case is a loss leader. The scheme also provides the groundwork for newly qualified barristers to have a sustainable career in their early years, and beyond.

However, the reaction from the legal Twitterati has been one of dismay. 9-12 Bell Yard QC Mukul Chawla said he just couldn’t see who would benefit from the recommendations.

Anonymous legal blogger the Secret Barrister described the new scheme as “a nasty whack for junior hacks”.

Baby barristers missing out under the plans is a fear shared by the Law Society, which yesterday evening issued a press release stating:

Senior criminal barristers look set to enjoy a New Year pay hike at the expense of more junior bar colleagues and solicitor advocates.

Law Society president Robert Bourns argued:

Changes to the legal aid payment scheme for advocates in the Crown Court were long overdue, but giving a pay rise to the better paid seems to run contrary to the government’s own aims of reducing bottle necks in the court system… [A]lready well paid QCs look set for a pay increase of around 10%. The advocates towards the bottom of the pay scale — junior barristers and solicitors — will either stay the same or receive much smaller increases.

12 Comments

Anonymous

Only bit of the bar still regularly doing the job of real advocacy. Decent sols could do 90% of civil work if it were not for their desire to spread the PII liabilities around.

(1)(5)
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Interloper

Yeah that’s correct, the Criminal Bar doesn’t provide any useful service does it ? Far far better to let someone charged with a criminal offence have a go at representing themselves… If they mess it up, piss off the judge and end up in chokey, even though they weren’t responsible, weeeell so be it, there have to be collateral casualties eh..

Pray tell, what you are packing into your smoking pipe these days ? 😐

If you’re renewing your PC, how about a Dell ?!

(5)(0)
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Anonymous

For the junior end these proposals would signal pay cuts.

Try some real world examples and you will find that the fees are down.

The fat cats, however, get fatter.

How on earth can this be said to benefit the majority of the criminal bar ?

(6)(0)
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Deep thought

I jacked in a career as a professional DJ to become a criminal barrister, somebody’s got to do it I guess, life’s not about money…

(3)(1)
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Anonymous

£100 for a junior to conduct a sentencing hearing.

£100!!!!!!

This will need to cover:
(1) Review of sentence and planning of submissions;
(2) Travel to Court and reporting in to Court staff;
(3) Brief conference or discussion with solicitor and/or client;
(4) Waiting time;
(5) Submissions; and
(6) Return travel and updating paperwork/file/clerk.

BAFFED!

(9)(0)
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Crimly Fiendish

It actually works better for the junior hacks.

At the moment the “basic fee”, billed by whoever does the trial or cracks it, covers:

All prep
First five mentions
First two days of trial
Sentence hearing (if appropriate).

A junior covering a mention or a sentence relies on counsel billing the case to stump up for the work done. In some Chambers, this doesn’t happen- especially for second six pupils. Junior bods tend not to complain but just suck it up.

The page count only makes a big difference when it’s huge. In most knockabout cases it isn’t.

As a slightly more senior bod who does most of my trials, I’d rather get paid for the hearings I do rather than a nebulous basic fee that I may have to share several ways, which is often barely boosted by the page count.

(1)(0)
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