Government set to adopt Bar 'counsel numbers' proposal

Mike Yuille

THE BAR Council's proposal for new regulations limiting the numbers of barristers used in criminal cases may be taken up by the Government sooner than many expect.

The proposal appears in the Bar's current clutch of measures for cutting waste in the criminal legal aid system.

It is, in fact, a repeat of a proposal the Bar first made in 1992 to the Lord Chancellor's Department, which was not taken up. However, the LCD now says it has drafted rules based on the 1992 proposal, likely to come into effect by January 1995 at the earliest, to limit the number of counsel.

"Until the Lord Chancellor agrees to them, I can't go into details as to what they will say," says an LCD spokesman.

The Bar is pressing the LCD to amend the current "two counsel" criminal legal aid regulations, under regulation 48 of the Legal Aid in Criminal and Care Proceedings (General) Regulations 1989, to bring them into line with civil and privately funded cases.

Peter Birts QC, chair of the Bar's legal aid and fees committee, says: "The Bar has no business in supporting unjustified practices so far as legal aid is concerned. Either a second counsel is necessary, or it isn't."

Meanwhile, the LCD is issuing a paper seeking views on specific proposals concerning the granting of civil and criminal legal aid to apparently wealthy individuals.

The announcement followed a parliamentary question on the u2.8 million paid towards the u4.1 million legal costs of fraud defendant Dr Jawad Hashim.