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Criminal barristers ask for early billing to ease potential cashflow crises

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Coronavirus: Criminal Bar Association wants barristers to be paid before trials are over

Barristers should be allowed to bill for work as soon as it’s done, rather than waiting until the very end of a trial, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has said.

The group, which represents barristers working in the criminal courts of England and Wales, says that the authorities should take the “unprecedented step” in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

While the courts remain open, self-employed barristers are worried about having to self-isolate and give up work after developing COVID-19 symptoms.

The CBA thinks that allowing barristers to invoice for work already done on pending cases would ease cashflow problems at the bar.

The group says that it wants both the Crown Prosecution Service and Legal Aid Agency “to take what would not only be an unprecedented step but would be a welcome gesture by allowing counsel to bill for work done”.

It added:

“We recognise that advances in payment is both a complex and frankly time consuming ask but it will be a lifeline for so many practitioners. We must be able to submit bills where hearings have been conducted. We cannot sit and wait for a trial to be concluded in the way that we do presently and given that the predictions are that this is going to go on for sometime, the backlog will no doubt become acute and so we will need timely payments.”

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The government’s position is that “during the current phase of the coronavirus outbreak, the business of our courts and tribunals continues”.

But the Prime Minister said yesterday that everyone who can should work from home, and that everyone in a household where someone has symptoms should self-isolate for 14 days.

The Bar Council says that legal aid barristers should be able to defer tax and VAT payments and get interest-free government loans “at the very least”. The Chair of the Bar, Amanda Pinto QC, is meeting with senior Ministry of Justice officials today.

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