National Delegates Conference
Saturday 16th November 2013
Proposed by Hannah Kinch
This Conference recognizes that Young Barristers who go into publicly funded areas of law do so because they want to be a part of a justice system that is internationally recognized as being open, fair and committed to the rule of law. They turn their backs on more lucrative areas of practice, or other professions and undertake work that really matters, in the public interest.
Government's proposals will make coming to the publicly funded bar a financially unviable option for anyone who does not have private means to pay for the years of training undertaken and to support them in the early years of practice. ‘Top-up’ fees for university degrees and ever increasing costs of studying for the Bar Professional Training Course mean that those students who do not have the financial support of their families are incurring debts of many tens of thousands of pounds simply to qualify.
This conference deplores the Government’s spin that the fee proposals will benefit the junior Bar and barristers on low incomes. If introduced, these proposals will eliminate the junior Bar before their effects are even felt by more senior members of the profession.
This conference resolves to support the Young Bar.
Proposed by Jaime Hamilton and Peter Joyce QC
The CBA expresses its concern about the government’s stated intention to bring in without further consultation its proposals in relation to prison law, judicial review, imposing a financial eligibility threshold in the Crown Court, introducing a residence test, reducing expert fees and removing borderline cases from the civil merits test.
This conference deplores the contemptuous way in which the publicly funded bar is treated.
Proposed by Paul Harris on behalf of the CLSA and the LCSA
The Delegates Conference of the CBA supports the work of Criminal Lawyers United and all Chambers are asked to sign the pledge.
“We are criminal lawyers. We have an ethical duty to represent each of our clients in a robust, diligent and professional manner. No lawyer can fulfil this duty at the criminal legal aid rates currently proposed by the Ministry of Justice. The Law Society, the professional body for solicitors, also recognised this fact on 1st October 2013 and is unequivocally opposed to these cuts. It follows that to attempt to operate subject to the fee cuts as currently proposed will inevitably lead to inadequate representation of many clients. As professionals, our position is that we cannot and must not accede to this. We have demonstrated to the MOJ and will continue to do so that such cuts are unworkable and will lead to a collapse of our justice system. We are willing to continue to engage with the government to find savings and greater efficiencies.”
Proposed by Michael Turner QC
This CBA delegate conference calls upon the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State to pause before implementing any of the current proposals to allow time for proper consideration of the recently MOJ-commissioned systemic review and the Jeffrey review of the future of independent criminal advocacy. The CBA will assist with both of these reviews and will cooperate with the MOJ and other stakeholders to ensure that cost effective solutions are identified and delivered. This would at the same time reassure the public and ensure that the Criminal Justice System in the UK continues to set the international standard for the delivery of Justice for all.
Proposed by Max Hill QC
This conference challenges the inaccurate and misleading figures used by the MOJ to justify the level of cuts proposed; and challenges the paucity of evidence used by the MOJ to justify the proposals. The actual figures demonstrate a significant drop in legal aid spend over the last 4 years.
This conference warns of the impact of further cuts in advocacy fees (already significantly below those paid in 1997 when the Graduated Fee Scheme was introduced) on the independent criminal Bar and the effect on retention and recruitment, the impact on BME and women practitioners and the future recruitment of the judiciary.
Karl Turner MP addressed the meeting.
Proposed by the Chairman of the CBA
This conference resolves that we will not accept VHCC work paid at the proposed new rates and that we will return any work to which these rates apply.
This conference resolves that, should the government replace the Advocates Graduated Fee Scheme with either of the schemes proposed in the Next Steps Consultation, the Bar will decline to accept briefs to which such a fee scheme applies.
Proposed by Russell Fraser and by Mark George QC
The Conference is asked to approve:
The calling of a day or days of action on which no members of the criminal bar will undertake work in either the magistrates or crown courts. We will ask for the support of the representative bodies of the solicitor’s profession in standing by us on that (those) day (s). The purpose will be to demand that the government stays all its current proposals for legal aid and that the justice secretary engages with us meaningfully.
Unanimously carried (accompanied by a standing ovation)