The chairman of the Bar Council has warned the Lord Chancellor that he is considering bringing legal proceedings against the Department for Constitutional Affairs, as the bar?s deadline for action over the eight-year freeze in criminal legal aid rates passed last week.

In a letter to Lord Falconer, Guy Mansfield QC said he had instructed leading counsel on a possible judicial review of the government?s failure to fulfil its commitment to review graduated fee levels in cases lasting between one and ten days.

The government had promised that a review would take place in May this year, but last week Lord Falconer said this would be subsumed in the wider review to be carried out by Lord Carter of Coles. Lord Carter will not report until 2006.

Meanwhile, the Bar Council denied reports that criminal barristers had voted at a meeting at the Old Bailey last week to refuse new publicly funded briefs after 5 September until fee rates are reviewed.

A Bar Council spokesman said: ?There was no vote, no agreement and no mention of a strike. Individuals expressed a variety of views about when work would be stopped.?

In a letter sent last month to David Spens, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, the Office of Fair Trading reminded the organisation that any action must be taken ?by barristers acting individually.?

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