As the criminal bar continues to highlight examples of inadequate legal aid fees for 'preparation heavy' cases, a trade union for senior civil servants says it has secured a 10% pay rise for Crown prosecutors.
The FDA, formerly known as the Association of First Division Civil Servants, announced that it had successfully argued that its members should be 'properly compensated for extra work and greater flexibility'.
Under the pay deal, Crown Prosecutors at a junior grade, who have been given additional responsibilities, will get over 10%. Other prosecutors, senior managers and professionals will get a hike of between 4%-8% depending on where they sit on the pay scale. In return, prosecutors may be required to work between 7am-7pm and there is a one-in-four weekend requirement for new joiners.
The figures are higher than the 1%-1.5% average pay award that the government, in civil service guidance, said departments could make based on their own workforce needs. The guidance, published last year, also states that departments can give higher awards in exchange for plans to improve workplace productivity.
The Gazette was told that the Crown Prosecution Service, following talks with the union, made a business case to the Treasury and the extra money will come out of the CPS budget.
Steven Littlewood, a national officer at the FDA, said the pay rise was a 'well overdue reward for long-serving staff, who have been trapped in the lower ends of pay range for years'.
He said: 'The pay rises in this deal are only the first piece in the puzzle of how to appropriately recognise loyal staff who are expected to work more flexibly. The CPS is under-resourced. There is a long-standing shortage of prosecutors. We look forward to working with the employer to achieve a reward system that is able to recruit and retain lawyers.'
The FDA's successful negotiations could anger criminal defence advocates. In his latest weekly update, Criminal Bar Association chair Chris Henley QC highlighted the inadequate brief fees in a murder trial which began yesterday involving eight defendants and 11,000 pages of evidence.
Commenting on the pay rise, Henley told the Gazette that everyone involved in prosecution work should be paid properly. 'CPS-employed staff will now benefit from large pay increases over the next two years. By contrast the barristers who prepare and present the most important and difficult prosecution cases are paid less than they were 20 years ago,' he said.
As well as not getting paid for considering unused material, 'there is no flexi-working, sick pay, pension provision, or passing the buck for the barristers'.
Henley added: 'Hundreds of hours are now gifted to the CPS by every barrister who prosecutes every year. The public would be shocked at how badly the barristers upon whom the responsibilty for a case in court ultimately rests are now treated. Their commitment, professionalism and ethical conduct has not been reciprocated, it has been abused. Their quiet fury will soon become publicly deafening if immediate action is not taken. We have asked politely and been ignored for long enough.'
Henley's comments were echoed by Richard Atkins QC, chair of the Bar Council. He said: 'There can be no justification for one part of the system to receive a pay increase whilst another part is ignored. The Bar Council looks to the Director of Public Prosecutions to address this iniquity as a matter of urgency.'