Why the YBC is supporting the new proposed AGFS

It’s a point often made that the launch of Government consultations can be a moment where the profession can get a bit nervous, especially when the issue concerned is criminal publicly funded fees.

We have all experienced the perverse effects of the current system: turning up for trials that are non-effective for reasons beyond your control; endless delays and arguments with the LAA over page count; attending mention after mention payments for which you know are coming out of the final brief fee. Under the current scheme, the young barrister is often on the losing side in the roulette of remuneration.

The consultation entitled ‘Reforming the Advocates Graduated Fees Scheme‘, has been launched by the Ministry of Justice. This contains a proposal for a new scheme that intends to rationalise the way that publicly funded defence cases are paid. We think this will redress many of the disadvantages of the current system.

Fundamentally, it suggests re-writing the current Advocates Graduated Fees Scheme (‘AGFS’) and replacing it with a scheme where cases are paid based on the complexity of the case and to reward the work that barristers actually do, rather than working slavishly to a page count system.

From the perspective of a young barrister, there are some clear advantages of the scheme:

  • Being paid £300 for every ineffective trial
  • Restoration of payment for PTPH, sentence and mentions
  • Payment for the second day of every trial
  • A scheme that rewards advocates for the level of work done and their experience
  • No more arguments over the service of material as evidence.

It goes without saying that no scheme is going to be absolutely perfect. There are a few drops in the base amounts for payments for some cases. But the clear advantage is that young barristers will be paid for their time in court, rather than being paid on an arbitrary basis, and will be able to actually make money rather than feeling like every other case is a loss leader. The scheme actually provides the groundwork so that newly qualified barristers can have a sustainable career in their early years, and beyond. The young bar needs a scheme that incentivises progression to more complex and serious cases.

The Young Barristers’ Committee, through the Bar Council will be responding to the consultation. The response will be positive, as we think this is a step in the right direction and the changes proposed would benefit the Young Bar overall.

If you have any views or would like to contribute to our response please do send comments and feedback to YBC@barcouncil.org.uk.

By Louisa Nye (Chairman of the Young Bar 2016) and Helena Duong (Criminal Barrister at 23 Essex Street)