England: Criminal bar ‘ready’ if government fails to honour revised fee rates

Chris Henley

The criminal bar is “ready” if the promises the UK government made to it this year over revised fee rates for Crown Court work are not honoured, the head of their body has said.

Carmelite Chambers’ Chris Henley QC, 51, the new chairman of the 4,000-member Criminal Bar Association (CBA), told The Times that the £15 million the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) offered to settle concerns is, in real terms, closer to £8m and that the revised rates will not be in place until December.

“The profession is angry,” he said. “We are consulting heads of chambers so we are ready if the promises made to us in May are not honoured. The £15 million is no more than a sticking plaster.

“The time this is taking is causing enormous dismay. The consultation has been extended. So the statutory instrument won’t be in force at least until the end of the year — I feel very, very badly let down. It means that everyone is working at rates which even the government acknowledges are inadequate.”

Justice Secretary David Gauke had insisted that from next April all criminal defence advocates would see an increase in fees of one per cent and that he will ensure “advocates are more fairly rewarded for the work they do”.

Mr Henley said: “Over the last eight to ten years about £100 million has been taken out of Crown Court advocacy, so giving us back £15 million is very modest. We would need at least another £25 million on top. People feel short-changed.”

He also argued that the authorities need to rethink their use of imprisonment.

“We should be thinking much harder about the utility of imprisonment for so many people, particularly young adults. We only seem to have one club in the bag at the moment.”

He added: “Of course there are people who are a genuine danger to the public and of course deterrence has a role to play. But we are not rehabilitating.”