Today (27th February 2014) the government published their latest response to the consultation.
This is a very quick post just dealing with the problems with AGFS Scheme 2 and why barristers (in chambers) shouldn’t be too happy with the outcome.
One week last year I prosecuted two cases. On the Monday it was a benefit fraud – a two day trial. The value was just over £20,000. To be ready for trial involved, say, 20 hours work doing interview edits, admissions and schedules. The defendant was convicted and the sentence was adjourned.
On Tuesday evening I got my case for the next day. It was a shoplifting (£12.09 of cat food from memory). There were two witnesses whose evidence took up three pages. The defendant hadn’t been interviewed and so the only exhibit was one page – the till receipt.
At court, the security guard didn’t turn up. The application for an adjournment was laughed at. I offered no evidence and was on my way by 11.15am.
For both cases I got the same amount of money – £480.00. The fact that one involved hours of out of court work and the two days in court and the other involved next to no preparation and half an hour court is irrelevant.
Now the defence are going onto this rate. If you’re a barrister in chambers which of those cases are you more likely to get from a solicitors firm and which will be kept Inhouse? You can see in advance which one is more likely to run and you know, roughly, the amour of work will be required in both.
Also, note that given solicitors are getting a 17.5% cut when they’re already operating at the margin. The only way to make up the shortfall is to tap into the advocacy fee as well.
A firm has three options for advocacy cover in the Crown Court :
1. Keep it in-house
2. Brief it to a barrister in chambers
3. Brief it to a freelance solicitor-advocate
The difference between (2) and (3) is that the firm can keep 10, 20, 30% and in some cases more, of the advocacy fee if it goes to a freelance solicitor. It surprises me that as much work goes to the bar as does currently. This problem will be more acute when there is a wider difference between what work you do and what you get paid.
Sorry this is about rushed – bashed out at court as a result of a twitter exchange. But. If you’re a barrister, when the government says that this is a 6% fee cut, don’t believe it. Look carefully at the small print and the bigger picture.