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Recent Criminal Legal Aid reform demonstrates a lack of understanding from the Ministry of Justice

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For example, the following proposals have been implemented following the consultation period: - Pay a single fixed fee of £565 (£362 for the litigator and £203 for the advocate) for a guilty plea in an either way case which the magistrates' court has determined is suitable for summary trial; - enhance the lower standard fee paid for cracked trials and guilty pleas under the magistrates' courts scheme in either way cases; and - remove the separate fee for committal hearings. The Bar Council highlights that the proposals above penalise the advocate where a Crown Court trial is elected by the defendant. This suggests that it is the advocate's decision, perhaps holding a desire to gain access to a higher fee by conducting a Crown Court trial. This is fundamentally wrong, as it is the defendant's right to elect a jury trial and there is no evidence to suggests there is an existing practice where advocates actively encourage defendants to elect the Crown Court. The MoJ's motive behind these proposals is no doubt mainly aimed at tackling the issue of defendants electing a Crown Court trial not necessarily because they are not guilty. Other reasons a defendant may elect a Crown Court trial include that they wish to wait and see if prosecution witnesses turn up, or they may hold the view that there is a chance that the case against them may be dropped due to evidential issues. However, to penalise the advocate for events unfolding during the early stages of a case for reasons unrelated to them is illogical and unjustified. If the government wants to save money by reducing the number of Crown Court trials then it should change the law, not try to achieve a similar effect by reducing fees paid to lawyers. This is wrong as long as it remains a fundamental right to elect jury trial. For more information please complete our Enquiry Form call us on 01245 493939 or email mail@gepp.co.uk The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.