Major Criminal Cases Framework
The Major Criminal Cases Framework came into effect on 1 February 2016. It applies to all new applications and extensions of legal assistance for major criminal cases, which includes committals over four days and trials likely to last more than 15 days.
These changes affect the Simplified Process – Committal Mention and/or plea in the County Court application form, the Simplified Process – Committal Mention and/or plea in the Supreme Court, the Simplified Process – Indictable Crime - Trial application form, the Submit Correspondence menu item and File Outcome menu item.
The following have been updated to reflect requirements under the Major Criminal Cases Framework:
- the brief analysis and case strategy, committal report and trial preparation plan, and brief and handover to counsel .
Criminal Trial Preferred Barrister List
As part of the project, Victoria Legal Aid undertook a consultation process to ensure our major expenditure on jury trials delivers access to justice through quality legal services for our clients, efficiency for the courts, skilled and focused trial advocacy and value for money for the community.
Exceptions to briefing a Preferred Barrister will not be granted for a major criminal trial (a trial that is likely to last more than 15 days).
To assist practitioners with understanding the above changes to briefing a barrister for a criminal trial and navigating the changes to ATLAS, we have developed a Criminal Trial Preferred Barrister List frequently asked questions and a user guide for ATLAS Changes to the Simplified Process – Indictable Crime – Trial application form.
Court of Appeal guidelines
Guideline 7.8 – election to renew leave to appeal against conviction and/or sentence in the Court of Appeal
We may make a grant of legal assistance for an election to renew leave to appeal against conviction and/or sentence in the Court of Appeal where leave to appeal has been refused by a single judge and the applicant elects to proceed before a full bench of two or more judges in the Court of Appeal.
New requirements where the sole ground of appeal relied upon is ‘manifest excess’
We introduced specific merits advice where the sole ground of appeal relied upon is manifest excess. Applicants must satisfy Victoria Legal Aid that the sentence was wholly outside the range available to the sentencing judge.
Grants process when the court elects to bypass the leave stage
Changes were made to the grants assessment process where the court elects to bypass the leave stage and the appeal proceeds by way of the hearing of the leave application and appeal together before a bench of two or more judges.
To assist practitioners with understanding the changes, navigating Court of Appeal matters and preparing a merits advice, Victoria Legal Aid developed:
- a fact sheet detailing the changes to the guidelines and the processes for applying for a grant of legal assistance for appeals to the Court of Appeal
- a Court of Appeal procedures checklist
- a document to assist practitioners with preparing a thorough merits advice for conviction and/or sentence in the Court of Appeal.
Instructing and co-counsel guideline
Victoria Legal Aid considered the comments of the Victorian Court of Appeal in the matter of R v Chaouk  VSCA 99 and put in place an instructing and co-counsel guideline as follows.
Victoria Legal Aid will provide a fee for:
- the instructing lawyer who has prepared the matter for trial; or
- an instructing lawyer who is experienced and well versed in the facts of the case and the relevant law; or
- junior counsel, where the assigned lawyer in consultation with their client determines that is more appropriate to ensure a fair trial in the particular case; or
- junior counsel, where a legal practitioner who meets subsection a) or b) is not available or not preferred;
as and when required in a criminal trial.
This guideline determines that a grant of legal assistance for either an instructor or a junior counsel will be available in criminal trials before a jury as and when required. This is in addition to ordinary funding available for trial counsel and case preparation pre-trial.
From 12 January 2015, the fee for an instructing solicitor to attend to instruct at the County and Supreme courts in changed from a half day fee to an hourly rate up to a maximum of five hours per day.
In order to claim the fees, practitioners must record and retain on file:
- details of how the instructor or co-counsel meets the requirements of this guideline
- details of the dates and times of the attendance at court using the or an equivalent record to capture these details.
Brief Analysis and Case Strategy fee
From 12 January 2015, VLA created a fee to encourage early brief analysis and case strategy development prior to a committal mention for indictable matters.
- a documented Brief Analysis and Case Strategy fee to cover the work involved in either a solicitor or barrister undertaking the analysis
- a lump sum general preparation fee to cover other general preparation undertaken by a solicitor.
Practitioners must keep evidence of the brief analysis and case strategy development on the file to claim the fee.
Victoria Legal Aid pays for one trial counsel per trial. Trial counsel may be supported by either an instructor or junior counsel,
In certain cases, Victoria Legal Aid may allow fees for Senior Counsel and/or two counsel. Practitioners must obtain approval from Assignments and these applications are not subject to the simplified grants process.
If you have any questions about the eligibility criteria for criminal law, please call Victoria Legal Aid's Grants and Quality Assurance on (03) 9269 0600.
Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.
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Reviewed 18 March 2022