Amending the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme

Closed 12 Oct 2018

Opened 31 Aug 2018

Overview

This consultation brings forward proposals for allocating an additional £15 million of spending to the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS). The AGFS is the fee scheme through which criminal defence advocates are paid for carrying out publicly funded work in the Crown Court.

Why We Are Consulting

On 1 April 2018, we implemented a reformed AGFS. This new scheme followed more than two years of close collaboration between the Ministry of Justice and the legal professions.

These reforms were subject to a full public consultation. While we heard concerns about elements of the scheme, many of which we responded to positively, consultees were generally in favour of the new structure. We remain of the view that this structure is sensible, coherent, and a vast improvement over its predecessor, and that it should form the basis for remuneration into the foreseeable future.

However, while we remain committed to the structure of the new scheme, we believe the fees within the AGFS require reconsideration. Since we published our consultation response in February of this year, practitioners have expressed concerns that fees are too low and do not properly reflect work done.

We have spoken extensively to practitioners and representatives of the professions to better understand these concerns. These concerns have focused on the level of fees in relation to:

  • fees in the specific offence categories of sexual offences involving children (category 4), dishonesty offences (category 6), and drugs offences (category 9)
  • fees for junior advocates, both employed and self-employed
  • fees more generally, with advocates specifically stating they want increases in the future

One of the principles of the reformed scheme from the very outset was to reflect, and pay for, work done. Having carefully considered the concerns that the AGFS does not achieve this objective, we recognise that fees within the scheme should be increased. As a result, we are proposing to allocate an additional £15 million of spending to the AGFS to address the above concerns. This consultation sets out our proposals for distributing this additional expenditure.

Additional datasets and analysis to be included in the consultation of proposed changes to AGFS (21 September 2018)

We are publishing the following additional analysis and datasets in response to a request for further information.  These should be read alongside our consultation document and impact assessments dated 31 August 2018.

The additional datasets contain individual bills paid by the Legal Aid Agency in 2016-17 and 2017-18 (see ‘Additional Datasets’ below).

We are also publishing two additional tables (see ‘Additional Tables’ document below)

  • a replication of Impact Assessment Table 15: “Modelled expenditure by Scheme 9 outcome” based on 2017-18 data; and
  • a replication of Impact Assessment Table 16: “Modelled expenditure by advocate type” based on 2017-18 data.

The consultation has been extended from 28 September 2018 and will now close on 12 October 2018.

Audiences

  • Citizens
  • Legal professionals
  • Judiciary
  • Prosecutors
  • Legal professional bodies

Interests

  • Courts
  • Criminal justice
  • Legal aid
  • Access to justice