The Bar Council has put forward a redesigned Advocate’s Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS) to the Ministry of Justice to change the way criminal defence barristers are paid in Crown Court cases lasting up to 60 days.
The AGFS working group, made up of Bar representatives from every circuit at all levels of seniority, and the Criminal Bar Association, has been working for the last year to design a new scheme structure.
The proposals take into account changes in working practices since the scheme was last reviewed in 2007, in particular the increased use of technology. They are designed to make the fees fairer, but not to increase the Government spend on these cases.
They seek to abolish the number of pages of prosecution evidence as the principal determinant of the level of fee, and the number of witnesses as a determinant of the fee.
Instead they propose to restore separate payments for sentences, Plea and Case Management Hearings and other ancillary hearings, and daily payments tailored to reflect and reward the skill and experience of advocates across the categories and bands of cases.
The new scheme creates a single standard case category into which a significant number of basic cases will fall, and introduces a permanent mechanism for reviewing the operation of the scheme.
Chairman of the Bar, Alistair MacDonald QC, said: “The last substantial revision of the scheme was in 2007. Since then, there have been many changes, such as the increased use of electronic evidence; a new scheme is therefore required.”
The proposals, he said, are designed to reward “skill, experience and the level of responsibility” in each case.
He added: “The working group’s proposals are designed to operate within the Ministry of Justice’s existing AGFS budget. They reflect both the Bar’s and the Ministry of Justice’s shared objectives of ensuring quality, certainty and simplicity.”
Barristers wishing to comment on the draft scheme should email their observations to Adrian Vincent, Head of Policy, Remuneration and the Employed Bar, at AVincent@BarCouncil.org.uk.