Early 2017 saw the publication of the Government’s consultation on the Advocates’ Graduated Fee scheme (AGFS), the legal aid fee scheme for Crown Court defence advocacy.
The proposals were the result of several years’ work and constructive dialogue between the Ministry of Justice and the Bar Council, the Criminal Bar Association, the Circuits and the Young Bar.
- Features of the proposed scheme include:
- Fees based on the seriousness and complexity of the work done
- Restoration of separate payments for Plea and Trial Preparation Hearings, sentencing and mentions
- Restoration of payment for the second day of every trial
- Payment of £300 for trials which become ineffective
- No more arguments over the service of material as evidence
- A near four-fold increase in offence categories to capture the seriousness and complexity of cases
- Restoration of career progression - earnings increase as the work becomes more challenging, and
- Encouragement for advocates with the necessary skills to take on more complex cases.
The Bar Council’s response to the consultation identified further refinements to the scheme, and made the point that whilst having supported and contributed to a restructuring of the scheme, the Bar Council considers the rates proposed to be inadequate.
As the Chair of the Bar, Andrew Langdon QC, commented at the time of the consultation, the proposals go a considerable way towards restoring career progression at the criminal Bar.
He added that the suggested scheme is a fairer way of rewarding advocates for their work in the criminal publicly-funded sphere, and removes a number of perverse incentives arising from years of piecemeal cuts.
The Bar Council encouraged all those affected by the proposals to engage with the consultation and published analysis by Professor Martin Chalkley, one of the key architects of the newly proposed schemes.
“Research commissioned by the Bar Council in October 2013 found that between 2007 and 2013, AGFS fees reduced by 21% in cash terms equating to 37% in real terms. Another four years of inflation since 2013 means that those figures will be even worse today. This is an unsustainable situation and needs urgently rectifying.”
Contact and further information
The Bar Council
289-293 High Holborn