An agreement has been announced between the Bar and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in relation to fees payable for seven very high cost criminal cases (VHCCs) which are currently listed for trial, but for which no advocate was prepared to work at the rates being offered.
Under this agreement, revised fixed fees, will be determined on a case-by-case basis. There has been no information about any rates agreed or the formula that will be used to calculate them. This is against the backdrop of the MoJ asserting that the overall payments will not exceed the amount originally budgeted for following the 30% cuts imposed last December. It is difficult to see that this represents anything other than a fudge of an issue which continues to dumb down the integrity of criminal law practitioners.
It is intended that the Bar Council, Criminal Bar Association (CBA) and circuit leaders will work with the ministry to design an alternative to the VHCC payment scheme. SAHCA will insist that its voice is heard during this process in order to ensure that the interests of solicitor advocates are advanced and protected. SAHCA invites comment from its members to the national working committee via email or the website on this whole topic to assist this process.