Govt too slow on fixed fee contracts

The Bar Council has accused the Government of dragging its feet over introducing a system of fixed fee contracting for high-cost cases.

A Bar Council spokesman says that a working party was set up to look into the matter by the Lord Chancellor's Department early last year, but a decision has still not been made.

“We are urging the Government to finalise the system of fixed fee contracting in high cost cases as quickly as possible,” he says.

The matter, he says, is not presently being given priority by the Government because it is dealing with so many other things.

“These measures are designed to lay the ghost of the fat cat saga, consign it to history and allow for a more constructive future,” he says.

The graduated fee system for cases such as family and crime works well, he says, and is being extended to longer cases.

“But we now have the problem of the high cost cases. As it stands, the system attracts bad publicity because the longer the cases, the bigger the costs.”

He adds that if the fees in such cases are fixed by the Government it will mean greater predictability, savings in administration costs and faster payment times for barristers.

A Lord Chancellor's Department spokesman says: “The Legal Aid Board will be issuing a consultation paper on the matter in the very near future.”