today (24 May 2018) on the Criminal Bar Association’s (CBA’s) website gives details of an offer the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has made to settle the dispute over the introduction on 1 April of new criminal advocacy fees via changes to the advocates’ graduated fee scheme (AGFS).
CBA members have been asked to continue to refuse new cases, but the organisation has suspended its planned boycott of returns (cases taken at short notice), which was due to commence tomorrow (25 May). In 2014, criminal barristers had adopted the same no-returns tactic, which led to a government climbdown on cuts to advocacy fees.
The CBA intends to consult its members on the government’s offer over the next two weeks. A meeting of heads of chambers is due to be called for as early as possible next week, after which the deal will be put to its members in a ballot.
An increase of one per cent in the AGFS from April 2019 is on the table, along with extra money for certain cases that lose out under the new scheme and more funding for juniors. The government had originally stipulated that there would be no increase in the budget for the AGFS, but according to the CBA, a total of £15m extra is being offered by the government to fund a revised version of the scheme.
Reacting to the news, LAG’s director, Steve Hynes, said: ‘It looks as though, once again, the bar, because they have the power to boycott cases, have got a deal. I say good luck to them, but they should insist that the £15m is extra cash from the Treasury, rather than being snatched from another part of the legal aid scheme.’