On 1 April 2018 a new AGFS scheme came into effect covering all legally aided defence cases in the Crown Courts of England and Wales. The architecture of the scheme was the creation of some years of hard work put in, pro bono, by members of the Bar and by the organisations that represent us and was made in the face of further cuts proposed by the then Minister of Justice, Christopher Grayling MP. Whilst the structure of the scheme is laudable and an improvement on the outdated scheme, governments have, over many years, repeatedly declined to increase the budgetary spend for this type of work. Barristers in this discipline have suffered a cut in fee income over the last two decades amounting to 40% in real terms. The stage has now been reached where the ongoing viability of the Criminal Bar is in doubt. We deplore the fact that the Ministry of Justice failed to take the opportunity presented by the new scheme to increase fee income or to make the scheme index linked.
Therefore, and in line with the Criminal Bar Association’s recommendation, no member of the Deans Court Chambers’ criminal team will undertake work that is funded by a Representation Order dated 1 April or later and we will be operating a no returns policy from the 25th May 2018. Further, as a team we intend to take part in the other co ordinated days of action and in any escalation in action recommended by our representative bodies in the future.
We make this statement, and undertake this action with deep regret, knowing better than most the impact it will have upon upon our clients. However, the intractable approach adopted by repeated governments leaves us with no choice if we are not to sit by and watch the Criminal Bar wither and die."