The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has taken the next step in seeking a fair resolution of its requests in relation to criminal defence advocacy fees under legal aid, with Mishcon de Reya acting pro bono and submitting a letter before claim to the Ministry of Justice on behalf of the CBA.
The proposed claim for judicial review relates to the decision of the Secretary of State for Justice not to apply any increase in barristers' fees to existing criminal legal aid cases.
The Ministry of Justice has stated it cannot apply any fee increase to work done in the future under existing Legal Aid Representation Orders, as to do so would require a retrospective change to a contractual relationship.
Jo Walsh commented, "The letter outlines that the Ministry's position is wrong in law – the Lord Chancellor holds the power to both increase and decrease fees payable to criminal advocates under the Legal Aid Regime. There is no restriction preventing the altering of fees in respect of work yet to be undertaken.
It is also not supported by the facts – the Ministry of Justice has previously made changes to fees payable under existing Legal Aid Representation Orders in respect of future work. In 2013, a 30% reduction of fees was applied to existing Representation Orders in relation to the most serious, complex and long-running criminal matters."