'Fat cat' QCs' pay to be cut by half

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Indy Politics

The Lord Chancellor is planning to slash the millions of pounds of taxpayers' money paid to "fat cat" barristers by introducing new rules which will see their caseloads dramatically reduced.

The Lord Chancellor is planning to slash the millions of pounds of taxpayers' money paid to "fat cat" barristers by introducing new rules which will see their caseloads dramatically reduced.

Under the new rules, Queen's Counsel will no longer be guaranteed the right to represent defendants in serious criminal trials - unless they take a pay cut and do the work at junior rates.

Top QCs can earn £500,000 a year or more, all paid out of the legal aid budget. The Government says they should earn no more than a top NHS consultant or secondary school headmaster. A 10-day trial for a straightforward case will net a QC about £20,000, which includes a retainer for pre-trial casework, while a junior counsel working on the same case will earn half that amount.

Current figures show defence barristers receive 34 per cent more money than prosecutors, whose fees are paid by the Crown Prosecution Service. The Government is committed to equalising the pay to ensure trials are not tipped in favour of defendants. But while prosecutors will get a small rise, it also means slashing defence fees by as much as half.

Andrew Dismore, the Labour MP for Hendon, a solicitor who has been campaigning for the scrapping of the QC system, was delighted: "It is an antiquated system that has to be brought up to date. The Bar is running a price-fixing cartel."

But Brian Barker QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said defendants would no longer be guaranteed the best possible defence.

The Bar Council will consider its response next week. The Lord Chancellor has told the council he will seek parliamentary approval in late May or early June and put the changes into effect on 1 September.

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