A Personal Statement by the Joint Heads of Chambers
The Heads of 25BR would like to express their unequivocal support for the proposed deal and to thank Kirsty, Tana, and the whole CBA negotiating team for their dedication and commitment to securing the best deal the CBA has ever achieved. Having ourselves given many years of service to the CBA, including as Chair and Director of Education, Paul Mendelle and Jeremy Dein know at first-hand how hard it is to negotiate with government. Such limited success as we achieved was confined to preventing the government actively making the Bar even poorer: this, on the other hand, is the biggest single increase in our fees since the Carter Review in 2006. In the current climate, this is a remarkable achievement. It is in line with what Bellamy recommended and, in some respects, even better.
Kirsty, Tana and the other officers have worked unbelievably hard to achieve this deal with a government that is about to embark on (yet again) savage cuts in public expenditure. This increase in our fees runs counter to this government’s express aims.
It’s always possible to deconstruct any given proposition, it’s what we do for a living, and it is always possible to imagine a theoretically better outcome. But in the real world, this is a very good deal. It’s not perfect, and it’s not the end point, but it’s a very good start and one we can build on. By showing we can negotiate in good faith, and that we are united as a profession and will accept a deal negotiated by our leadership, we stand ourselves in good stead with the government for future negotiations. To reject a deal which has been implicitly if not explicitly accepted by our leadership is a recipe for disunity and impotence.
The idea that there is more to come if we just carry on seems unrealistic and the immediate consequences of rejection are severe. As Heads of a set of Chambers dedicated to defending clients we have to bear in mind the interests of defendants whose trials cannot proceed, as well as those of the witnesses and the victims, none of whom are getting justice. We are also bound to consider the effect upon our solicitors who have to deal with dissatisfied clients, and who have lost thousands of pounds in unbilled cases. The long-term effects could be much worse.
This deal cannot, and never could, undo a decade and more of the cuts to our fees or their erosion by inflation but it is a very considerable step in the right direction. Many feel there is a broader dimension to this action and it has been undertaken in part for the good of the CJS as a whole but this deal is not extra money for the CJS; every pound transferred into our pockets from the MoJ budget is a pound less for every other part of the CJS. A continuation of this action is more likely to cause further damage than it is to remedy years of neglect.
Everyone will make their own decision but we three have no hesitation in voting for this deal and would urge those who genuinely care about the CBA, our profession and the CJS to do likewise. This has been negotiated in good faith, after many long hours and days of very hard work, in a genuine effort to achieve the best practicable outcome. People are entitled to disagree and wish for more jam today but those who publicly criticise the integrity of our leaders and stoop to personal abuse bring shame upon themselves and tarnish the reputation of the Bar.