Principles applying to payment of fees for the County or Supreme Court stage of an indictable crime matter

Principles applying to payment of fees for the County or Supreme Court stage of an indictable crime matter

Fees on this page are effective from 1 January 2019. For fees payable prior to this see Archived versions of the Handbook.

General

Where aid is granted for a County Court or Supreme Court plea or trial the general fees in Table F are payable as applicable in accordance with the following rules:

Post-committal negotiation fee

The post committal negotiations fee is intended to enable meaningful negotiation with the prosecution in order to either resolve the case, or narrow the issues for trial. Where there has been a contested committal, it is expected that issues will have been narrowed, evidence tested and assumptions about the case confirmed or negated. Where there has not been a contested committal, the brief to counsel must include sufficient information and instructions to allow negotiation to take place.

The fee is based on an expectation that three hours will be spent on this process. At least part of the negotiation process should be in person or by telephone.

This fee is only payable once in a matter, and is payable only where counsel who appeared at the contested committal/special hearing also engages in negotiations with the prosecution and appears at the first directions hearing in the County or Supreme Court.

This fee is payable to counsel where:

  • the matter proceeds to a contested committal and has not resolved into a plea, and the accused has been committed to stand trial
  • the matter proceeds straight to trial without a contested committal and counsel briefed for the first directions hearing engages in negotiations with the prosecution prior to the first directions hearing
  • a matter proceeds to a special hearing (with or without contested committal), and counsel briefed for the special hearing also engages in negotiations with the prosecution prior to the first directions hearing.

The post-committal negotiation checklist must be completed by counsel and submitted to Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) before this fee is payable.

Plea

Where aid is granted for a County Court or Supreme Court plea, the plea fees in Table F are payable as applicable.

The preparation fee includes perusal of the brief, taking instructions, jail conferences, briefing counsel, organising witnesses and preparing plea material. No allowance is made in the table for instructing in a plea.

Brief fees

The first day brief fee in Table F includes preparation, conferences and appearance on the first day of the hearing.

The preparation fee includes perusal of the brief, taking instructions, jail conferences, briefing counsel, organising witnesses and preparing plea material.

Where counsel who appeared at contested committal or special hearing, or at the first directions hearing if the matter was not contested, also appears at the trial counsel is entitled to an ’uplift’ fee of 20 per cent of the brief fee.

Where counsel who appeared at contested committal, special hearing or at the first directions hearing if the matter was not contested, also appears at the final directions hearing and the matter resolves to a plea at the final directions hearing, counsel is entitled to the trial brief fee for the direction hearing in lieu of the direction hearing fee. This recognises the additional work and negotiations undertaken by counsel.

Circuit fee – plea hearings/special hearings

In hearings other than trials and except where counsel or solicitor advocate practices in the circuit town, additional fees in accordance with Table NN are payable.

Special hearing

Where aid is granted for a County Court special hearing, the ‘special hearing fees’ and the ‘plea fees’ in Table F are payable as applicable.

Instructing/co-counsel

VLA will provide a fee for:

a) the instructing lawyer who has prepared the matter for trial; or

b) an instructing lawyer who is experienced and well versed in the facts of the case and the relevant law; or

c) junior counsel, where the assigned lawyer in consultation with their client determines that it is more appropriate to ensure a fair trial in the particular case; or

d) junior counsel, where a legal practitioner who meets subsection a) or b) is not available or not preferred;

as and when required at court in a criminal trial.

The instructing/co-counsel worksheet and attendance record must be completed and retained on the practitioner's file in order to claim these fees.

Trial

Where aid is granted for a County Court or Supreme Court trial, the trial fees, sentence indication fees and plea fees in Table F are payable, as applicable.

Solicitor’s out-of-office fees

VLA will pay the first day circuit fee in Table NN plus a fee for each necessary overnight stay in a circuit town where:

  • instructing is allowed
  • the instructing solicitor does not practice in the circuit town
    or
  • the instructing solicitor practices in the circuit town and the matter is in Melbourne.

These fees also apply where an instructing solicitor who practices in a circuit town has a trial in Melbourne.

Circuit fees for trial

In County and Supreme Court trials additional fees in accordance with Table RR are payable, except where counsel or solicitor advocate practices in the circuit town. These fees will also apply were a solicitor advocate who practices in a circuit town has a matter in Melbourne.

Adjournments

Where a trial relating to a State prosecution is adjourned, counsel must make an application for an appeals costs certificate.

Appeals costs certificates are not available where a trial relating to a Commonwealth prosecution is adjourned. In these circumstances, VLA will pay counsel the fees that would be allowed if appeals costs certificates were available, that is, a maximum of two consecutive days.

If the trial is called on for the day but adjourned in the morning, and the instructing solicitor attended court, the instructing solicitor will be entitled to claim for a half day instructing.

Additional preparation/reading fees for solicitor

Using the rates for calculating additional preparation fees for counsel in Fee Schedule 4, when the number of pages of material to peruse exceeds 20 hours, solicitors are entitled to seek additional preparation.

VLA may approve a maximum of 15 hours additional preparation for solicitors. VLA will not approve additional preparation for solicitors for scanning documents.

The rate will be calculated by dividing the total number of pages to be perused by 90 and then subtracting 20 hours. The resulting number of hours is then multiplied by the applicable hourly rate in Table ZZ.

Solicitors must keep a record of time spent on preparation and submit it when a fee is claimed.

Where additional preparation fees have been approved for the solicitor at the Magistrates’ Court stage and the matter proceeds to the County Court or Supreme Court, the difference between the hourly rate of preparation paid in the Magistrates’ Court and the higher court will be allowed.

Where at trial is adjourned or where a retrial occurs, further additional preparation fees for solicitors will not be approved.