Criminal legal aid fee increases a welcome first step, but next stages critical to rebuilding justice system, says Bar Council
The Government has announced the next steps in the criminal legal aid review including a Statutory Instrument to be laid in Parliament by 21 July to bring in a fee increase of 15% for the Advocates' Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS – ie the fees paid to barristers) from 30 September 2022.
The Written Ministerial Statement (published today) also set out plans to respond to the criminal legal aid review consultation in full in Autumn, including “details on the longer-term funding and structural graduated fee schemes reform” and the role of an advisory board, as recommended by the independent Bellamy Review.
The Bar Council recognises this fee increase as a welcome first step and is calling on the Government to also deliver on its commitments to future funding and reform of the criminal justice system.
Commenting, Mark Fenhalls QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:
“It has been a long and painful process getting to this stage. Members of the criminal Bar have been feeling mistreated, undervalued and overwhelmed for a decade or more because of the chronic underfunding of the criminal justice system.
“Today’s announcement of a 15% fee uplift is not enough to reverse the cuts of the last decade, but it is a welcome first step in the right direction. There is a lot more work to be done to undo the damage and begin to rebuild trust with the legal professions.
“The Government has committed to bringing in further reforms driven by the evidence, and it is critical that it now delivers on these pledges to future funding and reform.
“We will continue to push for the delivery of the recommendations in the independent Bellamy Review and the creation of an advisory board that can act on the evidence. We urgently need the further changes that will stop the flight from specialist criminal work of barristers and solicitors who keep the criminal justice system going.”