HL Deb 20 November 2000 vol 619 c53WA
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether His Honour Gerald Butler QC has completed his review of arrangements for the instruction of Treasury Counsel at the Old Bailey. [HL4645]

The Attorney-General (Lord Williams of Mostyn)

His Honour Gerald Butler QC delivered his report to the Attorney General on 18th August 2000. The report recommends the retention of the Treasury Counsel system but makes important recommendations to open up and modernise the Treasury Counsel arrangements. The Government will be accepting most of the recommendations without modification. The system of selecting barristers to be monitored for appointment as Treasury Counsel will be reformed with the aim of encouraging applications from a broader cross-section of the bar (and solicitor advocates) and there will be a higher quality of monitoring so that able barristers have the best chance of an appointment. There will be clear rules as to the maximum permitted length of service for Junior and Senior Treasury Counsel. There will be new criteria governing the ambit of work sent to Treasury Counsel with the aim of reducing their considerable workload and giving other barristers more opportunity to be instructed in cases being prosecuted at the Old Bailey. Murder and manslaughter cases not falling within the criteria will not normally be prosecuted by Treasury Counsel at the Old Bailey in the future. Consideration will be given to instructing Counsel from the provinces in cases at the Old Bailey and, with a reduced volume of work, Treasury Counsel will be freed up to prosecute some cases in the provinces and to be instructed to defend in some cases. The practice whereby Junior Treasury Counsel are paid a brief fee of two-thirds of that of Senior Treasury Counsel leading him or her, whatever work is to be done, will cease. I believe these reforms will be of considerable benefit to the criminal justice system.

The report and the Government's response have been placed today in the Libraries of each House for the information of members. It is also being published today on the Attorney General's website (www.lslo.gov.uk), with copies being made available to interested parties.