X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

Coffee House

The criminal bar is revolting

6 January 2014

10:30 AM

6 January 2014

10:30 AM

Something peculiar is happening at criminal courts across England and Wales this morning. Barristers from are staging an unprecedented walk out in protest at Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s plan to trim a further £220 million from the Legal Aid budget. Barristers in wigs and gowns are protesting at at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and at Crown Courts including the Old Bailey.

Since 2010 the Ministry of Justice’s budget has been cut by £1.3 billion, with a further £148 million to be cut over the rest of the parliament. The government asserts that the Legal Aid bill is too high. Since the coalition took power, the bill has reduced by £264 million – about 20 per cent of the total. It’s fallen by almost a third over the past 10 years. The bill for the most serious QC-led cases has fallen by 46 per cent since 2007. The criminal bar complains that stripping a further £220 million from the Legal Aid fund – less than the cost of two miles of the HS2 railway – will leave the independent criminal bar unsustainable.

The government has been guilty of misdirection: in October Grayling was caught out overstating a QC’s fee for a 60-day trial by almost seven times, but in December the new Justice Minister Lord Faulks recognised the criminal bar as ‘a profession in crisis.’

[Alt-Text]


Sections of the press have criticised the Bar for being responsible for the ‘overpriced, agonising racket the British legal system is.’ The blunt characterisation of barristers as Rumpole-esque pinstripe-trouser wearing fat cats fails to delineate between the commercial and criminal bars. Official figures show that last year half of criminal barristers turned over £50,000 or less. Stripping out VAT, clerking, rent and other business expenses, their taxable profit is closer to £28,000. That makes no allowance for pension contributions, holiday pay or sick pay. The MoJ deliberately speaks of ‘fee incomes’ when it means ‘turnover’, as if barristers trouser the whole lot.

Today’s is an odd sort of strike – no picket lines as such, no running battles with the police, and only lasting a morning (3 ‘court hours’). Sarah Forshaw QC explained that the intention is that ‘disruption will be kept to a minimum.’ Barristers refusing to attend court this morning risk being held in contempt of court, convicted, fined for wasted costs, or disciplined by their professional regulator.

Of more immediate concern for the MoJ is the refusal of senior barristers to accept fee cuts in the most serious cases which are ongoing. Barristers have either returned those briefs, or simply refused to take them on at the new rates. Criminal barristers who frequently attend court for no fee at all have today drawn a line, saying they cannot afford to work for a 17 per cent fee cut.

Jon Mack is a criminal barrister at Blackfriars Chambers.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close