Crime doesn't pay

"Crime doesn't pay, for either of us."


The Ministry of Justice is boosting legal aid funding with an extra £135 million a year. However, the Criminal Bar Association has slammed the 'insufficient' rise, and its members have voted in favour of refusing 'returns work' over complaints of poor pay.

The MoJ said it would spend an extra £135 million on legal aid per year, in line with a recent report by retired judge Sir Christopher Bellamy QC, who recommended a 15% increase in criminal legal aid fees. 

“I welcome the Government’s promise to inject urgently needed money into the legal aid system," said Mark Fenhalls QC, Chair of the Bar Council. "We will work with the Ministry of Justice to make sure the funds are delivered swiftly, effectively and fairly."

However, the Criminal Bar Association has said the injection is not enough. Last Sunday, CBA members voted by an overwhelming majority of 94% in favour of refusing to accept returns work* from 11th April, unless the government agrees to a further set of measures. The CBA's demands include the setting up of a pay review body, and the government increasing remuneration by 25% (not 15%) under the Advocates' Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS)**.

A spokesman for the CBA told RollOnFriday that just £35m of the £135m boost from the MoJ was going towards the AGFS, with £100m going to the LGFS***. According to calculations by the spokesman; after tax, expenses and various deductions, the pot to be divided amongst criminal barristers "comes to the equivalent of around just £100 a week in to the pocket on average per criminal barrister". Criminal barristers may wish to look away when pay rises are being announced in other areas of the profession.  

“The CBA 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," said Jo Sidhu QC, Chair of the Criminal Bar Association. "Our 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.”

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said the department was “disappointed in a vote for this course of action" just days before it had announced "plans to create a stable and sustainable legal aid sector for the future."

“We encourage CBA members to read our proposals in full and respond to the consultation, rather than being drawn into action that will harm defendants and victims of crime,” said the spokeswoman.

The courts are struggling with a backlog of almost 60,000 cases, partly due to the lockdowns throughout the pandemic. Jo Sidhu QC chair, and Kirsty Brimelow QC, vice chair of the Criminal Bar Association said: “We have already lost too many of our colleagues who can no longer afford to maintain their commitment to criminal work and who have left our ranks out of desperation and despair. Every day we are losing more. We have shrunk to a mere 2,400 full time criminal barristers.”

The Lord Chancellor Dominic Raab failed to ingratiate himself with the CBA last year, and the relationship doesn't seem to have improved much since then.  


* Return work refers to those cases that are returned from the original criminal barrister, and taken on by another barrister. There is no professional obligation for the barrister to accept such work, but they do so as a gesture of goodwill to prop up the criminal justice system.

** The AGFS is the Advocates' Graduated Fee Scheme: This is for barristers who provide legal aid representation on behalf of a client, ie counsel advocates.

*** The LGFS is the Litigators' Graduated Fee Scheme: This applies to solicitors, ie litigators representing clients for crown court cases.

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Comments

Cat burglar 18 March 22 07:43

I can’t get upset about scumbags not being represented.  There’s better things to spend taxpayers money on. 

Cat burglar is a moron 18 March 22 09:44

Cat burglar- if you're lawyer you're a pathetic disgrace. Go away you stupid, smug, simpleton.

Anonymous 18 March 22 10:38

Cat Burglar is right.

Don't care if scummy scumbags go to jail. Don't care if rich Tarquins (and Henriettas, these days) can't make it to Chamonix twice this year. Hard working solicitor advocates will plug the gap, as always, and the so-called "Criminal Bar" will continue to fade into its well deserved irrelevance.

Next up, Immigration 'lawyers'.

Actual Lawyer 18 March 22 10:44

The current legal aid position is a disgrace.

Everybody has the right to competent, properly funded legal representation. That's a fundamental bedrock of democracy. Cat burglar et al. might want to take a look at Ukraine for an example of where their kind of "no smoke without fire" thinking leads. Raab is of the same breed, something about which I imagine most of his former Linklaters colleagues are pretty ashamed.

It's also terrible from a societal perspective, because it means the lawyers doing legal aid work are either desperately struggling to make ends meet or are independently wealthy. The law is not a gentleman's hobby for the elite, it is supposed to represent society at large. It's an embarrassment  that the industry (particularly at the Criminal Bar) is so unrepresentative.

And before anyone asserts otherwise, I am corporate lawyer at US law firm, so I have no skin in the game other than as a member of society who would prefer not to see the rule of law continue to be eroded. 

Marshall Hall 18 March 22 11:18

The writing has been on the wall now on criminal legal aid fees since the early 90's.

No criminal barrister under 20 year's call can complain if they chose to work in a field that pays abysmally.

Intelligent well-educated Remain voter here 18 March 22 11:55

Everybody has the right to competent, properly funded legal representation. That's a fundamental bedrock of democracy. Cat burglar et al. might want to take a look at Ukraine for an example of where their kind of "no smoke without fire" thinking leads. 

Yes, that's right isn't it.

Putin invaded the Ukraine because of insufficient hourly rates for legal aid practitioners.

Also, Brexit and Trump.

Actual Lawyer 18 March 22 13:10

Okay Trolly McTroll

If you really think there is no link between authoritarian behaviour and total disregard for the rule, then there’s no point in discussing the subject.

Human 18 March 22 13:40

The truth is that the criminal justice system was designed for a time when trials took place within hours of incarceration.

The current system of justice is vastly over elaborate and bureaucratic.

The court hearing should replace the police interview under caution in a significant number of slam dunk cases.

Anonymous 18 March 22 18:24

Ask any prosecutor and they will tell you that criminal courts for the most part run a lot more efficiently when accused persons have counsel.  I hate dealing with a self-representing accused.  it also isn't fair.  And for those trolls going on about who cares, it's criminals, I guess you've forgotten that in our system, people are not guilty until the state proves them so.  And police don't always get the right person. (Even here in British Columbia, Canada, where only Crown prosecutors can approve charges.)

Human 19 March 22 23:12

From the experience of a family member:

It is simply not proportionate to spend tens of thousands of pounds on the trial of an addict prosecuted for a fraud by presenting a fake prescription for opiates at a branch of Booths. This lady should in a fair and reasonable world have been dealt with on the same day she was arrested based on the CCTV and the prescription in question. Instead it takes multiple hearings, witness statements from my pharmacist family member, multiple bundles, forensic reports on all the evidence, and of course the lady in question does not attend the trial which takes place two years after the original offence and an arrest warrant had to be issued. I challenge those opposed to reform to explain how all this flummery contributed materially to the fairness of the proceedings.

Society's challenge to the criminal bar is to reduce the costs of these type of cases to something remotely proportionate to the crime itself. I'm quite happy for criminal barristers to make their £250k if they can work through 5 of these cases from beginning to finish daily. They should be run like the misconduct proceedings within prisons - fairly, to rules, and with zero tolerance for delay or inefficiency.

The taxpayer does not have infinitely deep pockets and is being taken for granted here. There is such a thing as too much justice and we all suffer from it. Offenders, taxpayers, and victims all suffer from excessive process and delays: only those who bill by the hour prosper.

 

Mikey 21 March 22 02:33

How much does a barrister make per hour on the current rates for criminal defense? 

Anonymous 21 March 22 13:18

"Society's challenge to the criminal bar is to reduce the costs of these type of cases to something remotely proportionate to the crime itself. I'm quite happy for criminal barristers to make their £250k if they can work through 5 of these cases from beginning to finish daily. They should be run like the misconduct proceedings within prisons - fairly, to rules, and with zero tolerance for delay or inefficiency."

This, about one billion times.

The system has become bloated and disproportionate for what it is intended to achieve. In exactly the same way as the parallel system that operates for immigration, asylum and deportation hearings.

A massive reassessment of the value of procedure needs to happen in the justice system, because the cost of it isn't in any way proportionate to the value (or 'justice') that it adds. 

The public is rapidly losing faith and confidence with all of the machinery of justice in the UK, but that isn't because those systems are underfunded. It's because they're all vastly overpriced.

Right all the time 22 March 22 13:23

Hey Cat Burglar, I guess at the time you would have called all those falsely accused and imprisoned Post Masters "scumbags" too. I guess there is only one real scumbag in this thread!

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