UK dispatch: criminal bar chair speaks out for higher prosecution fees, need for more prosecutors Dispatches
UK dispatch: criminal bar chair speaks out for higher prosecution fees, need for more prosecutors

James Joseph is a UK staff correspondent for JURIST.

Building on JURIST coverage dating back to September, the Criminal Bar Association’s Spokesperson has spoken directly with me to release further information on Saturday’s announcement in relation to the increase of prosecution fees to match those of defence advocates.

The full details are below:

Kirsty Brimelow KC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said:

Prosecution fees will increase to achieve parity with defence fees. The 15% increase will apply to the backlog with the detail being worked through. The commitment is for funding to match defence fees.

It is hard fought for welcome news. In future, parity of fees between prosecution and defence should happen automatically through additional Treasury funding. It strikes a fatal blow to the heart of justice when trials are adjourned because no prosecutor can be found.

The Criminal Bar Association were required to make arguments that barristers prosecuting be paid the same as those defending, which should be a fundamental part of the justice system. There was never a counter argument to this, and why should there be.

The work of the CPS, the politicians and the Law Officers who supported the Criminal Bar is a strong example of a coming together across political stripes for victims, complainants and defendants in the criminal justice system.

There still is a long way to go to achieve a functioning criminal justice system but it is hoped that the urgency of its rebuilding is recognised by this funding. It now needs to come into effect…and quickly.

The increase in fees was announced by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill KC, at the Bar Council meeting on 4th February.

He acknowledged that the work of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) had been critical in achieving the outcome. The timeline for it coming into effect is eight weeks.

According to the Criminal Bar Association, the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) original timeline was twelve weeks, but they reduced that to eight weeks following representations from the CBA’s chair Kirsty Brimelow KC this January. She along with the other officers of the Criminal Bar Association, are pressing for quicker implementation. Whilst the CPS continues to work with the CBA to speed up the process, the increased funding is a significant positive move in the trudge to a functioning criminal justice system.

The Criminal Bar Association spokesperson further stated that:

We remember ourselves why we stay working in public service, defending under criminal legal aid, and prosecuting on behalf of the CPS. The Criminal Bar is a powerful family of practitioners. The skills and expertise of criminal barristers make the criminal justice system one that must be valued. Our importance is reflected in every person we represent, every witness we call to give evidence and every justice outcome.

Prosecutor shortages worsened from October 2022 into 2023, with the Criminal Bar Association giving evidence to Select Committees including the Justice Committee and Home Affairs Select Committee which fed back to ministers and the Justice Department. Over the 15 months to 30 September 2022, 364 Crown Court trials were adjourned on the day they were listed to begin due to no prosecutor being available, of which nearly half (173) involved violence and sexual offence cases. This represents a 14-fold increase on just 26 trials of all offences similarly aborted due to prosecutor unavailability during the same period 3 years previously.