The Bar Council’s Government Savings Group, led by leading criminal practitioner Paul Keleher QC, has been working to prepare the Bar to adapt to a new landscape for providing legal services. The group has identified ten areas for achieving savings within the justice system as the MoJ implements significant spending cuts, over the remainder of this Parliament. The savings are based on the findings of barristers working up and down the country at all levels of the courts system, drawing on their expertise and day-to-day experience. The Bar Council has written to the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke QC MP, with a more detailed dossier explaining the rationale behind these savings. They are:

  • sentencing discounts for early guilty pleas;
  • establishing a serious economic crime agency to investigate and prosecute such offences;
  • reviewing prisoners serving indeterminate sentences who have served their minimum term; investigating compulsory legal services insurance for all corporate officers;
  • unfreezing defendants’ restrained assets to meet the cost of their legal services;
  • improving the cost-effectiveness of the justice system by implementing changes in and around the management of court hearings;
  • Greater use of IT in case preparation;
  • rescinding new provisions on notification of defence witnesses;
  • reviewing the confiscation process; and
  • removing bail review hearings in murder cases;

Nicholas Green QC, Chairman of the Bar Council, said:

“There can be little doubt that cuts to the MoJ’s budget will be brutal. The first priority must be to ensure access to justice. I am writing to every barrister in England and Wales to reiterate the stark effect which these cuts could have on the justice system and their role in the new financial landscape. However, the Bar Council has always said that at this time of unparalleled financial austerity the Bar must take a collaborative approach with Government and help it to identify where savings can be achieved without damaging access to justice.

Our list of savings provides a starting point. We are also suggesting market-driven solutions to bring new money into the system, which is now as important as ever in helping to ensure access to high quality legal advice and representation. We recognise that the required savings are much greater than those which our suggestions would initially yield. That is why the Bar Council urges the Government to take a bold and rational approach to sentencing policy, which accounts for so much of the Department’s budget. Second, the Bar Council has undertaken a tailor-made programme to prepare the Bar to work within a leaner system of publicly funded legal services, in which it is in the public interest that it should remain active.

The Bar will continue to ensure that the Government is fully alive to the long-term consequences of any short-term cuts”.