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At first glance, barristers’ fees can seem quite frightening, and the thought of escalating legal costs is likely to add stress to an already stressful situation. The good news is that in the UK there are regulations about what legal professionals charge and how they communicate their fees to clients, so you should not receive any surprise bills. In this article, we look at some of the main cost considerations in a criminal defence case.
If you are concerned about barrister costs, it may have crossed your mind whether you need one at all. The short answer is that you might need a barrister if your case is serious enough. Some cases can be handled exclusively by solicitors, who tend to be less expensive, but if the case is complex or is to be heard in the Crown Court, it is highly likely you will need a barrister to represent you. As we discuss later in the article, this is because barristers and solicitors do slightly different jobs, and in some courts, only barristers can actually represent clients.
There is no fixed amount that barristers charge in the UK. Whilst barristers working under legal aid are only allowed to charge set amounts, those working privately are allowed to establish their own prices, and it is up to you as the client to decide whether you agree to pay what they are asking.
Barristers are self-employed. They are usually affiliated with a set of ‘chambers’, who charge rent to the barristers who work under them and provide clerking services to help organise their work and sort out their papers.
The hourly rate of a barrister usually depends upon how many years of experience they have, and whether they have obtained the status of ‘Queen’s Counsel.’ Very broadly, hourly rates can vary from between £75 to £150 per hour for a very junior barrister, to between £500 to £600 per hour for the most senior and sought-after members of chambers. This means that you could be looking at between £500 to £3500 per day of your trial. Your solicitor assesses the complexity of your case and should try to achieve a balance between affordability and instructing someone who is a safe pair of hands. The rates of barristers who work outside of London are likely to be significantly lower than London based barristers.
It is common for barristers to act on a fixed fee basis where they agree to do a particular piece of work for a certain fee. For example, a barrister may charge you a fixed fee for each hearing in your case, and a fixed fee for the trial. Usually, cases in the Magistrates’ Court are simpler and will attract a lower fee than cases in the Crown Court. Your criminal defence solicitor will be able to give you a ballpark idea of the kind of fees your barrister is likely to charge. A fixed fee will include the cost of the barrister attending the hearing, as well as their preparation for the hearing, and travel time.
Criminal cases are often challenging and time consuming. A criminal defence barrister may need to hold conferences (meetings) with you and your solicitor to discuss the case. They will need to go through the evidence in your case very carefully to identify where there may be gaps, and which witnesses should be called to support your case. Sometimes going through the evidence can be very time-consuming, and yet crucial. For example, examining many hours of CCTV footage. Depending on the type of case, your barrister may conduct a site visit to view the scene of the alleged crime with their own eyes. Your barrister may also need to research complex points of law and establish case precedent on matters of importance to your case. Your barrister is allowed to charge for their travel time, e.g. the time it takes them to travel to visit you in prison, and the time it takes them to get to the court.
Your solicitor will provide you with information regarding your barrister’s fees before they instruct them. Your solicitor will pay your barristers costs on your behalf. It is common for solicitors’ firms to ask for the money from you up front. They will then hold it on your behalf in the firm’s client account and use it to settle the fees when they become due.
Usually, barristers charge by the hour, or they offer you a fixed fee for a piece of work. What appears on the barristers’ invoice depends on the fee arrangement that you have agreed. You may see the following items on their bill:
If you are unclear regarding the fees that are being charged, you have the right to ask for clarification. Barristers are required to keep records of the fees they charge, which you can request if you are feeling unsure about what you have spent your money on. If you feel you have been treated unfairly, you can make a complaint to the barristers chambers, and if this does not reach a satisfactory resolution, you can make a complaint to the Bar Standards Board.
In short, no. Solicitors and barristers are both lawyers, but they perform different types of work. Barristers mainly defend people in court, whereas solicitors mainly perform legal work outside of court. However, this distinction can get a little confusing in the world of criminal defence because criminal defence solicitors often represent defendants at court in straightforward cases. Where your case is complex or is to be heard in the Crown Court, you will usually be represented by a barrister. The differences between barristers and solicitors, then, are not about quality, but function.
Yes, you can, but it is not always advisable to do so. Solicitors play a vital role in case preparation, and they usually have specific barristers that they know and trust to help with cases. It is always better to ask for a referral from your solicitor than to vet potentially tens of barristers directly.
Yes, they can, but this only really happens where there is a conflict of interest or where there are issues with payment, cooperation, or other matters that make it impossible for the barrister to give you adequate representation. Barristers cannot refuse a case based on the nature of the case or the age, race, or any other protected characteristic of the defendant.
No, they do not. No win no fee agreements (also known as conditional fee agreements) are not used in criminal cases. Unlike some other areas of law, criminal defence barristers will usually charge their client the same fees regardless of whether they are found innocent or guilty. This is because even if the defendant is acquitted, the defence will not usually be awarded the full amount of costs by the court. The defendant can apply for reimbursement of their legal costs if they are acquitted.
At the conclusion of a criminal case, if you are convicted, you may have to pay the prosecution’s costs, or part of them. According to Rule 45.5 of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2020 on costs, where a defendant is convicted they can be ordered to pay such prosecution costs as the court considers just and reasonable. This can include costs by other agencies incurred in bringing the offences to light. A costs order should only be made where the court is satisfied that the defendant has the means to pay. The defendant must be informed what the prosecution’s costs are, so that they have the opportunity to make representations on them if appropriate. A defendant who is ordered to pay a fine or other sum of less than £5 should not usually be asked to pay costs, unless this appears to be just and right in the circumstances. Usually the costs order should not be significantly different from the fine that the defendant is being asked to pay.
If you are considering obtaining legal representation in your criminal case, contact Stuart Miller Solicitors today. Our experienced team of solicitors will be able to advise you on the facts of your case, and the most suitable barrister to represent you. Over the many years that we have been in practice we have developed connections with reputable chambers, and we are able to find you a high-quality barrister at short notice. Whilst direct access may seem like the cheaper option, if you go through a firm of solicitors you will benefit from an additional pair of eyes on your case. Your solicitor and barrister will work closely together to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
A legal expert will consult you within 24 hours of making an enquiry.
We will always treat you with trust, understanding and respect.
Your case will be handled by an expert who specialises in your type of offence.
We will take early action to end proceedings as soon as it is practically and legally possible to do so.
You will be kept updated on your case at all times. We will provide a named contact available to answer your questions.
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