Bar Council consults while backbenchers revolt against Carter

The Bar Council has kickstarted a consultation into new arrangements for handling fee-sharing under the current legal aid reforms.

The news comes as it was revealed that more than 50 Labour backbenchers signed up to an early day motion which presses the Government to rethink their proposals on legal aid.

The consultation, which will close on 9 February, will look into the changes to the Fee Payment Protocol that has arisen in the wake of the Carter review of the system.

Under the new reforms fixed legal aid payment will have be shared fairly among senior and junior barristers.

The proposed protocol, supported by the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Legal Services Commission, requires barristers to adhere to a rigorous set of rules.

The rules pertain to issues such as the permissible grounds for returning a brief, the agreement of standard terms with instructing solicitors and the structure of payments and accounting systems

The code of behaviour will be governed by The Criminal Defence Service (Funding) Order 2007 – the same statutory instrument giving effect to the Revised Advocacy Graduated Fee Scheme also recommended by the Carter Review.

Tim Dutton QC, Vice Chairman of the Bar Council, said that any publicly funded barrister needs to be governed by a “fair and clear” payment system which ensures the fee is shared on an equitable basis among advocates.

Dutton added: “While a lot of effort has gone into getting the draft protocol right, I am still keen to ensure that practitioners in the front line, and their chambers administration teams, have an opportunity to pore over the detail, which is why we are issuing this for consultation.”