Cloth Fair begs for an end to hourly rates

New criminal set Cloth Fair Chambers has begun talks with public funders such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to scrap hourly rates for publicly funded work.

The set has been launched to focus on high-value crime and fraud work, but its seven QC members have regularly prosecuted and defended on publicly funded cases.

“The only work we will not be doing is work that’s not properly remunerated for the talent of the barrister involved,” said Nicholas Purnell QC, head of chambers.

Ian Winter QC, another Cloth Fair tenant, said the set had opened negotiations with public funders such as the CPS, the Serious Fraud Office and the Legal Services Commission about the possibility of payment per case rather than by the hour. Winter said an hourly rate does not necessarily translate into a cheaper fee for the public funder and that an experienced advocate could produce the same work in a shorter time.

Purnell added: “The big concern is why complex prosecutions and commercial cases take so long and come out without a result. I think a key factor in that has been the constraints the public authorities have felt they’ve been labouring under. I think it’s an important discussion that needs to be had.” The talks between the set and the authorities comes after the publication in July this year of Lord Carter of Coles’ review of legal aid funding, which proposes a wide-scale reformation of the system. The Law Society has warned that hundreds of legal aid practices will disappear if the proposals come into effect.