It was announced on Thursday afternoon that a deal has been done between the Bar – Bar Council and Criminal Bar Association – Law Society and the Lord Chancellor. The Bar achieved the postponement of cuts to advocacy fees until summer 2015, in return for ending the “no returns” action. The Law Society, rather less successfully, achieved the pull forward by a year of interim payments for litigator fees, but this year’s 8.75% fee cuts will stand, as will next year’s further 8.75% cuts, the reduction of criminal contracts by two thirds and the rest of the proposed cuts. The government achieved the end of the united front between solicitors and the Bar, and the end of action that was having a significant impact on the ability of the criminal courts to function. But the LCCSA have confirmed that action by solicitors and probation workers on Monday and Tuesday will go ahead.
The CBA welcomed the agreement, and on Twitter its Chairman described the government’s “submission” to the action it has taken. But in reality all that has happened is that some cuts (to AGFS but not to VHCCs) that criminal advocates faced have been postponed until after the next election – when a new Lord Chancellor (or even the same one) may well feel less immediate political pressure to avoid criminal cases being delayed in the courts and more able to force cuts through. Meanwhile, it appears unity across the professions has collapsed, meaning that there is even less chance of solicitors resisting cuts to their fees and a cull of their firms. And, in the face of two successive 8.75% fee cuts to all their other work, the prospect of no immediate cuts to advocacy fees provides an even greater incentive for firms that survive to take more and more Crown Court advocacy in house. The CBA’s victory, if victory it is, may well prove to be rather pyrrhic.