There is nothing wrong with wise spending, particularly if it’s public money, but according to England’s most senior criminal silks, calculations used by Government funders to work out their pay seems rooted in Alice in Wonderland-style fantasy.
The system goes like this: first, costs assessors work out how many hours a barrister will work on case preparation. This is done by multiplying the number of pages the assessors think the barrister needs to read (apparently only pages in which the name of their lay clients appear) by the number of minutes they estimate it will take to read such a case. This figure is then multiplied by the hourly rate to get the final payment sum.
Astoundingly, the assessors’ calculations do not allow for barristers to reread a page, or account for the fact that barristers have to read pages other than those in which their clients’ names appear (which can run into literally thousands upon thousands of pages).
Not surprisingly, some senior barristers have reported putting in estimated bills of 500 hours against assessors’ estimates of around 100.
This has not stopped feisty English barristers from getting their deserved whack, though. One English silk has gone so far as to ask the assessors to cast their minds back to the days they studied English at O-level. Could they pass their exams with just a single reading and a minute spent on each page of their various textbooks, or was a little more thought required? he asked.
The silk has found this appeal tends to work in his financial favour.