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The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) last week warned that the freeze in public funding for short criminal trials is hitting women hardest.
Cases affected by the freeze in fees for cases lasting up to 10 days – a 23 per cent reduction in real terms – include most sexual offences, which historically are mainly prosecuted and defended by women.
The CBA said that the quantity of preparation for such cases has increased due to new legislation. But barristers only get paid for preparing short cases if a court hearing actually takes place, resulting in many practitioners spending hours in preparation and not being reimbursed.
CBA spokesperson and 25 Bedford Row barrister Alison Levitt said: "The current policy on legal aid pay for sex cases has the effect of depressing women barristers' income compared with that of their male counterparts, in a way which might constitute indirect discrimination. We will be examining this issue in greater detail."