The lord chancellor will head-hunt advocates to join the Public Defender Service as an ‘emergency measure’ to ensure fraud trials go ahead as barristers continue to refuse the cases due to fee cuts.
The Court of Appeal last week heard a plea to reverse the stay granted by His Honour Judge Leonard in the case of five defendants charged with an alleged £4.5m land banking fraud.
Leonard discontinued the case as none of the five was represented, ruling there was no realistic prospect of enough advocates being available to take the case and that the PDS was ‘insufficient’ to assist.
The Financial Conduct Authority, which prosecuted the case, appealed the ruling last week before Sir Brian Leveson and lords justice Davis and Treacy.
Lord chancellor Chris Grayling (pictured) was granted leave to be represented as an interested party. The skeleton argument submitted on his behalf reveals that the ministry has retained headhunters to secure senior counsel to bolster the PDS.
It says the government will implement ‘any necessary increase’ of the PDS to ensure representation in the cases where defendants are unrepresented, and ‘consider options for obtaining advocacy services through sub-contracting from other providers’.
The document says: ‘The lord chancellor regards this as an emergency measure to address the needs of the interests of justice.’
For the FCA, Sean Larkin QC said advocates would have been available for a trial next January and the public interest demanded that the case should merely have been adjourned.
Acting pro bono for the defendants, Alex Cameron QC, the prime minister’s brother, argued that Leonard had made reasonable findings on the evidence.
The court reserved judgment.