The leader of the bar has written to the House of Commons justice committee to clarify figures given in evidence by the lord chancellor whom she asserts over-stated by seven times the ‘typical’ amount earned by barristers in serious criminal cases, so-called very high cost cases (VHCCs).
During his evidence to the committee on Tuesday, Chris Grayling said: ‘In very high cost cases, after we have made the changes, our projection is that in the shorter VHCC cases, the typical ones that are a little over 60 days which require a shorter period of preparation, the typical payment to a QC will be around £135,000. I still think that is a fair reward for the job.’
Maura McGowan QC today contested the figure, putting it at £19,992, based on the reduced fee of £333.20 for a full day.
In the ‘exceptionally rare’ category 1 case, which are the most serious, McGowan states that under the proposed fees a QC would be paid £101.50 per hour for preparation.
In such a case, she said, in order to earn the £135,000 stated by Grayling, a barrister would have to do 1,133 hours preparation in addition to the trial advocacy.
She suggests that the £135,000 figure quoted by Grayling is ‘far from typical’.
To attract such a fee, preparation would involve between 1,133 and 1,805 hours work. ‘To give the impression that £135,000 would be paid for 60 days work, is simply not an adequate nor an accurate reflection of the true picture,’ said McGowan.
The bar leader added: ‘I am sure the lord chancellor had no intention of misleading the committee, but it should not be left with the impression that the case he describes is in any way a typical one.’
From November the government plans to cut by 30% the fees paid for new and ongoing VHCC cases. The cut is designed to save £19m a year, but senior barristers have indicated that they will not be prepared to accept cases at the new rate.
Senior barristers are considering returning ongoing VHCC briefs when the cut is implemented in November, causing delay to serious criminal trials.
McGowan’s full letter is available here.