During the Authorisation to Practise process this month, as well as paying the mandatory Practising Certificate Fee, you will have the opportunity to subscribe to the Bar Representation Fee (BRF). This voluntary minimum contribution of £160 a year (or under £13.50 per month via direct debit) goes towards supporting the Bar Council’s work and provides other benefits. As a BRF subscriber, you get print copies of this magazine, a 20% discount on all Bar Council training courses and events, plus discounts on services and shopping. 

Help for the Bar

Not all of the Bar Council’s work can be funded through our portion (29%) of the Practising Certificate Fee (the rest goes to the regulators) and much of that work would not be possible without the vital contribution of the BRF. Bar Council projects that are entirely or partly funded by the BRF include the Bar Council’s ethical enquiries line used by thousands of barristers every year, some of the wellbeing at the Bar work and the mentoring schemes we provide for those at the Bar who are seeking judicial appointment, considering applying for silk, returning to practice, or temporarily leaving the Bar for parental leave or a career break.

Standing up for the profession

The political focus this year will, of course, be dominated by the upcoming general election. The justice system has been starved of sufficient investment for a long time and the backlogs in almost all jurisdictions remain stubbornly high. The Bar Council will continue to campaign for further increases in resources for all publicly funded work and for investment in the court estate and the wider legal system.

The recent Criminal Bar Association (CBA) survey of barristers who prosecute and defend in rape and serious sexual offence (RASSO) cases strikingly highlights the severe shortage of specialist barristers qualified to do this work. The numbers will only be sustained and can only increase if there are improvements to both remuneration and working conditions. The Bar Council will continue to work with the government and the CBA to seek to do whatever is needed to support and grow the number of barristers conducting these important cases.

Progress achieved

Research and representation by the Bar Council, alongside others, has helped to achieve some positive movement on fees. Last year, the Crown Prosecution Service matched the 15% increase in defence fees and there were increases for s 28 matters and for immigration legal aid work in relation to the operation of the Illegal Migration Act. This year, the government has already announced changes that mean a 23.5% increase in the fixed advocacy fee in civil fast track cases, uprating the advocacy fee for cases on the intermediate track and, for the first time, fixed advocacy fees will be recoverable when cases are vacated or settled close to trial.

The Magistrates’ Court Protocol for the Greater London area has been updated and a 15% increase to the Protocol rates is effective from February 2024. These results have often followed years of work by the Bar Council in collaboration with others at the Bar. For us to maintain and make further progress for barristers then we need you to back the Bar via the BRF please.

Amplifying the message

The Bar Council is well placed to be able to be the collective voice of the profession. In the last year, the Bar Council has secured significant media coverage, including 11 front-page newspaper stories covering a range of issues such as possible reform of private prosecutions and the need to invest in the justice system. The Bar Council has also brought together the leaders of the Four Bars – England and Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland – to issue a joint statement championing the ‘cab rank’ rule.

The Bar Council needs to continue to robustly champion the interests of barristers, the rule of law and the justice system in the public interest in every way we can, including in our interactions with government, Parliamentarians, civil servants and regulators. This work is underpinned by the financial support you provide via the BRF.

I hope that you feel able to give the Bar Council your support this year. Sign up via MyBar