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Not enough! Criminal bar responds to government’s £135 million legal aid pledge

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Lord Chancellor accepts recommendation of independent review — but bar chief warns move won’t stop colleagues quitting

The exodus of barristers from the legal profession “will continue if not accelerate”, the chair of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has warned, despite the government today announcing it had accepted an independent review’s recommendation to pump an extra £135 million a year into the criminal legal aid sector.

The Ministry of Justice said the additional cash will sit “alongside the most ambitious reform of criminal legal aid in decades that would ensure professionals are better paid for the work they actually carry out and help free up capacity in courts”.

This will include giving “more people the opportunity to forge a career in criminal law, whatever their background, by funding the training and accreditation of solicitors and solicitor advocates and removing barriers for members of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX)”.

The announcement comes just 24 hours after Legal Cheek reported that CBA members had voted overwhelmingly in favour of implementing a ‘no returns’ policy from 11 April, “unless government agrees to the measures necessary to safeguard the long-term sustainability of the criminal bar”.

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The independent review, chaired by Sir Christopher Bellamy QC, found that an additional £135 million a year was “the minimum necessary as the first step in nursing the system of criminal legal aid back to health after years of neglect”.

Commenting on today’s announcement, the Lord Chancellor Dominic Raab said: “We owe our whole legal profession — solicitors, barristers, court staff and judiciary — a debt of gratitude for keeping the wheels of justice turning over the last two years.”

He continued:

“That’s why we are accepting Sir Christopher Bellamy’s recommendation for an uplift in fees and a total of £135 million extra investment to ensure legal representation is there for those who most need it as we build back a stronger and fairer society after the pandemic.”

But responding this morning, chair of the CBA, Jo Sidhu QC, warned that his “members have made it absolutely clear that without a substantial increase in criminal legal aid fees, the alarming exodus of prosecutors and defenders from criminal work will continue if not accelerate”.

The 25 Bedford Row barrister added that “members have already made it clear that the suggested increase in fees by Sir Christopher Bellamy will not be sufficient to retain enough criminal barristers to keep the wheels of justice turning and that means victims will be failed”.

It remains unclear whether today’s announcement will be enough to halt criminal barristers pushing ahead with industrial action.

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18 Comments

FFS

£117 MILLION has been spent on legal costs so far for the Grenfell Inquiry –

https://www.thefpa.co.uk/news/grenfell-tower-inquiry-costs-reach-117-million

That includes a huge team of criminal barristers.

Who do you want to believe – people who make a living convincing a jury of a narrative, or statistics showing exactly where the money goes?

(15)(23)

Person Actually Capable of Reading

May be worth actually reading that article buddy. Clearly says on the second bullet point that the 117 million is the cost, of which 61million is legal costs.

Oh, AND THOSE LAWYERS CLEARLY AREN’T WORKING UNDER THE LEGAL AID BUDGET MORON!

(23)(10)

Anonymous

Poor criminal barristers – ONLY earning a mere £61million between them.

What a horrible way to live!

(12)(18)

Mr P

That was a very ill informed comment- do you think criminal barristers share £61 mill between the.m? So an average pay of about £25k a year before tax and fees,

(8)(0)

Don’t You Know Who I Am?

Barristers are in fact are the ones who need ‘access to justice’ the most here.

£61 million earned in legal fees is nowhere near enough to earn ‘Premier’ status at British Airways’ Executive Club. ‘Gold’ status and Club Europe certainly, but any chump of a solicitor can get that!

Can’t believe those literal Nazis who read the ‘Daily Mail’ and look at the fees barristers earn from disasters like Grenfell (and all the disasters that might follow) don’t have more empathy.

This is why we strike.

(14)(0)

Critical Thought

Why do you say they’re criminal barristers? I know barristers on Grenfell, they’re public law specialists, not criminal practitioners.
Granted, you can bemoan pay rates generally in the legal profession (especially for gravy-train inquiry work) but that rather demonstrates the point the criminal bar is making: Most barristers make decent money, but the criminal bar, who arguably do some of the most important and personally difficult work, are paid very poorly by any professional standard.

(7)(1)

Anonymous

However ‘most important and personally difficult’ the work is, I think working night shifts in a hospital and dealing with deaths as nurses and carers do everyday is far more challenging.

Nurses and carers are paid appallingly. But of course no barrister wants to advocate on their behalf for more pay, because most barristers deep down believe they are ‘better’ than nurses and carers.

You are far more likely in life to actually NEED a nurse or carer than to require the services of a criminal barrister. But by shouting the loudest, they are hoping the public forgets how other professions are treated.

(5)(6)

Honesty is the best policy

No disrespect to nurses at all but comparing a nurse to a barrister is unfair, a barrister is more in line with a consultant (have a look at their pay rates).

The cost of getting to be a barrister in University fees alone is around £60k (that is the debt I will have when I final qualify).
To be a barrister you have to complete 3 years of undergraduate,
1 year of post graduate with a cost ranging from 15k to 20k (if you pass in one year) +
12 to 18 month of training (pupillages)
That is the bare minimum!

Also nurses practically walk in to a job after 3 years of undergraduate, even when only achieving a 2.2. Barrister are very unlikely to have anything below a 2.1 and even then we have to fight like hell just to get an opportunity.

And once that nightmare is over, you must remember we are self employed, a nurse has sic pay, holiday pay, doesn’t have to pay fees to maintain where they work and when they finnish their shift they go home and they are done.. barristers usually work around 60h a week, nurses are unlikely to work more than 37.5h.

And finally you dont really understand what the pressure of being a criminal barrister is like, the trauma it leaves on you, I have seen people die, I have also sat across the table from monsters and had to provide them with a defence, death is easier.

Maybe take the time to really understand the work done by criminal barristers before you feel in a position to comment, I recommend the secrete barrister as some light reading.

(1)(2)

ag

In Scotland to be an advocate it’s
4 years LLB
1 year diploma
2 years training contract
1 year unpaid “devilling”

Treeshrew

If it is not enough then jog on to another job.

(3)(8)

anonymous

Not a criminal barrister but I think that that is what is happening, which is essentially the problem: all you have left them are people who cannot find anything better and/or those whose personal financial situation means they do not need to worry about the money… not a great pool to draw from.

p.s. as a commercial practitioner the description of inquiry rates (which I have been offered once or twice) as giving rise to a ‘gravy train’ raises an eyebrow – it truly is all relative!

(5)(0)

Anon

Well people are jogging on, which is why barristers can’t be found to prosecute or defend serious trials atm. Do you claim that is a good thing?

(8)(0)

Criminal Barrister

If the article is triggering you Treeshrew, jog on to another article.

Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and IDS’s decimation of the justice system in this way is both newsworthy and of interest to the public. Legal Cheek should continue to report on it

(4)(0)

Treeshrew

Nothing triggering at all, that is the preserve of snowflakes and the woke. The pay should be the minimum necessary to ensure that defendants get the very minimum representation the state is obliged to provide under the ECHR. Given how over supplied the criminal litigation market is, there seems no need to worry about the moaning criminal barristers. I remember that last strike with the poor things parading about with £1,000 handbags over their arms.

(4)(6)

Huge fan of "Treeshrew"

Ah, I get it now you tease. You’re giving us lols by pretending to be a strident right wing oaf who ignores the facts and keeps on restating nonsense. Fair play to you, you did get me first time.

You’re actually a lefty parody stand up act aren’t you? – go on, tell us which one.

Good one!

(1)(0)

Criminal brief

Lunatic

(0)(0)

Anon

Treeshrew, ‘justice on the cheap’ and underfunding of the Criminal Justice System for the past two decades is why we have now reached a breaking point.

It doesn’t really matter whether you appreciate the necessity of a properly functioning Criminal Justice System or not; though I suspect you would if there wasn’t one. Market forces will, as ever, prevail. The reality is that in recent years, a failure to properly remunerate criminal barristers has meant swathes of the Bar leaving the profession or moving to non-legally aided work. There is now insufficient counsel to cover the serious cases or Crown Courts sitting to hear those cases. Part-time judges, to make up the shortfall in the judiciary, are recruited from practising senior members of the Bar. If a barrister is sitting as a part-time judge, that is one less person available to act for a defendant or prosecute a serious case.

The increasing unavailability of counsel has meant more cases are having to adjourn. If a trial overruns or a barrister falls ill, there is no one else available to cover the next case that that barrister is then unable to cover. Custody Time Limits are having to be extended to keep those charged with serious offences remanded in custody awaiting trial. It costs more to keep a person in custody than if they were attending the most expensive private school. Are you starting to understand why not properly paying barristers to do legally aided work is actually false economy?

The problem is not restricted to the Crown Court. Did you know we have approximately half the number of Magistrates Courts in England and Wales as we did in 2010. (164 compared to 320). The rest was sold off to developers and the land was used for hotels and apartments.

Because legal aid rates have not been increased in line with inflation for the past two decades, criminal barristers are now basically paid half as much in real terms as they were twenty years ago. Is it any wonder they’ve been leaving?

Most people value the NHS and frankly, we probably should pay nurses more too – but you’re comparing apples and oranges. Perspective is important. The NHS budget for 2021 was £176.5 BILLION. The criminal legal aid budget was £617 million. Put another way the annual criminal legal aid budget would run the NHS for less than two days. We spend even more on the welfare state – £212 BILLION was spent on benefits in 2021.

Even if we doubled or tripled the criminal legal aid budget to get our system to run properly – it’s hardly going to result in significant tax rises.

(1)(0)

The Gypsy Fortune Teller from the fairground in an episode of the 90s sitcom “Bottom”

“It’s not enough!”

(2)(0)

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