MoJ offers £15m to Criminal Bar after fees dispute

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has offered the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) £15m as the government entity seeks to end the increasingly tense standoff between the two bodies.

The deal is said to be an entirely new investment and will include an £8m cash injection for barristers who have lost money through a change in law regarding fraud, drug and ‘high page’ sex cases, while a further £4.5m is being offered to boost the pay of junior barristers to aid career progression.

In addition, a 1 per cent increase in all fees from April 2019 will come into effect as well as a pledge from the MoJ to review the changes made to the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS) within the next 18 months.

CBA chair and Red Lion Chambers silk Angela Rafferty QC said: “We would like to make it clear to you that this offer is the culmination of a significant amount of work that took place over some time.

“It is right you should know that the initial, unsurprising and uncompromising position of the government was that no new money would be made available. This was maintained for many weeks. This offer is not the ‘first’ on either side. We have presented you with the government’s bottom line.

Any offer from the MoJ must be accepted by members of the CBA. Members are now being balloted for their opinions following a heads of chambers meeting on 31 May.

The tension between the CBA and MoJ has been growing steadily since vast swathes of the Criminal Bar elected to reject work falling under the new AGFS rules.

Changes to the AGFS scheme went live on 1 April and the CBA argued that work falling under its jurisdiction could see fees fall by as much as 50 per cent.

A ‘no returns’ policy was then adopted by some criminal sets since 25 May. The policy prevents work being passed from one barrister to another in the event that it is rejected.

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