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Courts: Fees

Volume 712: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2009

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will require the Legal Services Commission to review the system of payment for junior counsel's services in magistrates' courts, to ensure that they are remunerated fairly in proportion to the cases in which they appear. [HL4574]

The Government have no plans to require the Legal Services Commission (LSC) to undertake such a review.

Counsel rarely appear in the magistrates' courts on criminal matters, apart from in London where there is a history of the work being sub-contracted to barristers by solicitor firms. Payments to junior counsel in magistrates' court cases are a matter for counsel to agree with the instructing solicitor, who is also responsible for making the payment. Neither the LSC nor the Government determines the level of payment in these cases.

In exceptional cases, such as those involving a novel point of law, the court will recognise the need for representation by counsel. In such cases where counsel is assigned, counsel is entitled to be paid by the LSC, and is paid at rates determined by the LSC. The Government consider that these rates are fair.