Barrister fee increase to help vulnerable victims bring attackers to justice
Fees for barristers who help vulnerable witnesses and victims to pre-record a cross examination will rise to £1,000, the government announced today (25 October 2023)
- fees for barristers working on pre-recorded evidence increased to £1,000
- pre-record helps victims of rape and sexual assault give best evidence sooner
- allows more people give testimony to bring more rapists and abusers to justice
The recording takes place as close to the time of the offence as possible, while memories remain fresh, and helps victims avoid the stress of giving evidence in a live trial setting, which many find traumatic.
This fee increase seeks to increase the number of barristers available for such hearings to reduce victim dropout rates and bring more rape and sexual assault cases to trial.
A research report published in April found that rape victims who pre-record their evidence are more likely to have a better experience of the court process and find it less intimidating. It also meant they were able to access vital support services earlier, such as therapy, without fear that it could be used against them in cross-examination.
The government is determined to stamp out appalling crimes such as rape and domestic abuse and has launched an action plan to overhaul the criminal justice system to transform support for victims, drive up prosecutions and ensure cases are investigated fully. All three ambitions in this plan have been met eighteen months ahead of schedule, restoring the number of police referrals to the CPS, CPS charges and cases reaching the Crown Court to 2016 levels.
Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk, said:
"Boosting payments for this work will help more sexual violence victims testify earlier, away from the full glare of a courtroom.
"It’s the latest step in our ongoing work to further increase the number of rape victims getting support and justice."
Pre-recording of evidence allows victims and witnesses of crimes such as rape and modern slavery to have their cross-examination video-recorded and played later during trial. This is subject to a successful application to the court.
Fees were originally set at £670 in January when the government announced barristers would receive advance payments for work on pre-recorded evidence and for any wasted preparation for the first time.
This increase comes after an agreed review and as part of the ongoing work with the professional bodies under the new Criminal Legal Aid Advisory Board, chaired by Her Honour Deborah Taylor.
Government investment in the criminal legal aid system is expected to reach £1.2 billion a year, after the recent 15 per cent uplift in barrister fees and fees for most solicitors. This includes:
- police station work, including pre-charge engagement
- magistrates’ court work, including youth court
- Criminal Cases Review Commission work
- advocates’ graduated fees
- expert fees
The fee rise will come into effect as soon as possible when parliamentary time allows.