11:23, June 12 233 0 theguardian.com

2019-06-12 11:23:08
Criminal barristers advised to accept pay deal

Criminal barristers who threatened a walkout from courts across England and Wales in protest at low fees are being advised to accept a government pay deal.

The Criminal Bar Association, which represents thousands of prosecutors and defence lawyers, claimed the government’s promised increase amounted to tens of millions of pounds. It was not clear whether there would be new money from outside existing, stretched budgets.

The CBA received overwhelming support from its 3,000-strong membership for a day of action on 1 July that would have in effect closed down the criminal courts for a day.

But a joint statement issued by the the Crown Prosecution Service, Ministry of Justice, attorney general, Criminal Bar Association and the Bar Council on Wednesday announced that agreement had been reached.

The deal will be put to CBA members, asking whether they want to call off the walkout. Chris Henley QC, CBA chair, said: “We welcome the government’s commitment to deal immediately and comprehensively with historic deficiencies in remuneration levels for prosecution advocacy and fee payment guidance for a wide range of routine situations, and for standard fees generally.”

Under the deal standard courtroom appearance fees are expected to rise from £46.50 to £90. Having just agreed to give high court judges a rise of 27% over two years, the MoJ is finding it difficult to defend the need for continuing austerity to other lawyers.

The director of public prosecutions, Max Hill QC, said: “We are committed to introducing a fees scheme that gives a fair deal for prosecution advocates, and is affordable and sustainable. The external Bar plays a vital role in the prosecution team, and it is right that all advocates are properly remunerated for their hard work.”

A government spokesperson said: “The work of the entire criminal legal profession, whether prosecuting for the Crown or defending those who are innocent until proven guilty, is fundamental to upholding criminal justice, and the rule of law.

“Today, the government, through engagement with representatives of the legal profession, continues to demonstrate our shared commitment to improving that criminal justice system, which depends on the hard work of criminal barristers, solicitors and other professionals across England and Wales.”