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Bar prepares judicial review to protect criminal fees

8 February 2010

The Bar Council has responded to planned cuts in fees for criminal legal aid barristers by threatening the government with a judicial review.

It has instructed solicitors to write to the MoJ and the LSC, on the grounds that consultation exercises on advocates’ graduated fees and VHCC fees were “inadequate and unfair”.

The deadline for responses to the VHCC consultation is midnight, tonight. The consultation on advocates' fees closes on 24 February 2010.

The Law Society has already launched a judicial review against the MoJ’s decision to limit costs recoverable by acquitted defendants in Crown Court trials.

The society also threatened to challenge the tendering process for best value tendering by judicial review, a step that was not required following the government’s decision at the end of last year to drop the scheme (see Solicitors Journal 153/48, 22 December 2009).

“The Bar Council has thought long and hard about this decision but the process of consultation on these proposals, frankly, has been disjointed and chaotic,” Nick Green QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said.

“Our decision to take the first step towards bringing proceedings for judicial review has been taken after very careful consideration of the options available to us.

“We asked the MoJ and the LSC to adopt a coordinated and fair approach to decision making. But the government has refused to alter its present consultation process and did not even respond to our request for relevant data. The Bar does not have the information it needs to respond adequately to the two consultations.”

A spokesman for the Bar Council said the Bar had not launched a judicial review against the government for 20 years.

He said the latest Public Accounts Committee report on legal aid had criticised the MoJ and LSC for their poor management of the process of change and lack of understanding of the market.

He said that despite these failings, the Bar Council had consistently put forward proposals designed to safeguard and promote the administration of justice.

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