The CLSA was pleased to hear that having secured proposed investment of new money into the AGFS scheme the self employed Bar are suspending their intention to adopt a no returns policy. No solictors representative groups were part of those discussions with the Lord Chancellor and we await the details with interest as the government will need to work with all stakeholders to give effect to the proposal particularly given that more than 40% of some Crown Court Advocacy is now conducted by Solicitor Advocates. Whilst this was a deal made by the Bar and for the Bar, it must now be acknowledged by the government that our respective arguments for the need for investment into both sides of the profession and the wider criminal justice system are undeniable and immediate investment essential.
Although the action in relation to new work remains, our members should find there is improvement in available counsel in the coming days and weeks which in turn will ease pressure on firms and our clients, some of whom will have faced additional periods in custody in the meantime.
Whilst the extra investment is relatively small in terms of the overall budget, this represents the first new money into the CJS, and legal aid in particular, for decades, and is good news for HCAs and firms who employ them. Our members may choose to deploy their resources in the Crown Court under the improved scheme should it come into force. In the meantime given the position firms may also now wish to deploy their HCAs to the Crown Court to minimise disruption to their firms and clients if they were not previously doing so.
We must not be distracted by this partial victory for the Bar - there are bigger issues still to be resolved and we are seeking an urgent meeting with ministers to discuss how to fix our broken criminal justice system and reassert its reputation as a global leader.