Criminal legal aid fees to increase by end of September as barristers vote to strike

updated on 20 June 2022

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Criminal legal aid fees are set to increase by the end of September, as the government revealed plans to “lay a statutory instrument in parliament before 21 July, to begin the process of implementing increases to fees”.

The Ministry of Justice’s 12-week consultation on a £135 million reform package received 204 responses, according to James Cartlidge, a justice minister who spoke to the Law Gazette.

Cartlidge said: “We have been working around the clock to consider the responses but, if the remaining analysis follows the feedback we have considered so far, then I can confirm we would lay a statutory instrument in parliament before 21 July, to begin the process of implementing increases to fees to come into effect by the end of September.”

The government’s proposals and timetable for reform have been met with displeasure from practitioners at the Bar. In response to this, Cartlidge explains: “My officials and I have regularly been in contact with the Bar Council and Criminal Bar Association, and we have consistently explained the legal and practical reasons why our timetable is the quickest possible way to introduce increases to fees.

“From the outset of my engagement with practitioners, there has been a consensus call for us to ‘unbundle’ the consultation - implementing fee increases as soon as possible, with other reforms following at a later date. Once we have responded to the consultation on the fee increases and the confirmation of those increases is before parliament, it will be followed by a full consultation response on the wider proposals in the autumn.”

Speaking to the Law Gazette, Cartlidge said: “We have worked hard within government to secure the significant funding for our plans and I am confident that we can make a positive difference to the future of criminal legal aid that will improve the experience of both victims and legal practitioners.”

Since the minister's statement, criminal barristers have voted in favour of plans to strike following this long-running dispute – 81.5% of polled barristers voted in favour of the walkouts starting on 27 June.