Criminal barristers will vote on the government’s interim proposals for defence and prosecution fees from tomorrow.
A heads of chambers meeting is also scheduled for Wednesday evening. The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) said the ‘meeting is to exchange views and share information. Debate is healthy. No one will be told what to do’.
However the CBA’s chair, Chris Henley QC warned barristers that if they reject the ‘very significant changes to prosecution fees’ the government is likely to withdraw its offer.
He said: ‘It strains credulity to assume that if we vote to reject it in favour of action that the Treasury will say “have it anyway, on you go with your action”.’
He added: ‘This offer is being made because the Treasury has agreed to fund it. The CPS does not have the cash to fund the very significant changes to prosecution fees mid-year. It has been presented as a global offer to the profession, which will not proceed if we reject it in favour of the proposed action.’
On prosecution fees, Henley stated that ‘we have achieved all that we have been arguing for’. He cited a rise in stand out fees, standard appearance fees and sentence fees, among others things.
On defence fees, he said: ‘This offer represents a very substantial change to the speed of travel, and arguably the direction of travel.’
The CBA’s announcement comes amid rumblings of discontent from lawyers. One barrister said: ‘The 2019 deal involves no new money at all. We voted for direct action in support of demands for immediate fee increases, not the promise of a speedier review.’
The ballot will close next Wednesday.