Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Criminal Legal Aid

The coalition government (2010-15) reduced considerably the provision of legal aid for civil cases.  The Conservative government is pressing ahead with plans - put together by the coalition government -  to reduce fees payable to solicitors for criminal law work.  This is proving to be unacceptable to solicitors and, in protest, many firms have now decided to withdraw from providing criminal representation from 1st July.


See the Law Society Statement on Criminal Legal Aid Cuts

The Criminal Bar Association is balloting its membership.  The question being asked by the CBA is:
  
Solicitors face an 8.75% cut to litigators’ fees. In support of solicitors, do you wish to go back to ‘no returns’ and also refuse all new work with a representation order dated from 1st July 2015 until such time as solicitors decide not to take further action in respect of that cut?

See also the message at Criminal Bar Association - Monday message - 29th June

In A View from the North, one barrister explains why he will be supporting action to oppose the cuts.  He points out that the 8.75% cut is not only in respect of litigator fees but applies to other fees such as those for police station visits.  It is also am additional cut on top of the cut already suffered and is in advance of a further cut due in January 2016.  These cuts are being introduced before the consolidation has taken place that the Government recognises has to take place to avoid total market failure.

Cuts to Legal aid exacerbate two-nation justice - The Guardian 1st July

The Independent 1st July2015 - Legal aid boycott: Court chaos expected as lawyers refuse to take up new cases

Politics.co.uk - Ian Dunt 1st July - How lawyers are bringing the system to its knees 

John Briant 2nd July - Legal Aid cuts will hurt vulnerable people: not fat-cat lawyers

As things look at the moment,
I suspect that there is little to no chance of this newly-elected  government withdrawing its planned cuts to fees.  It is hardly "rocket science" to see that the cuts will ultimately drive many solicitors out of the criminal legal aid market.  There will be a serious "knock on" effect to the Criminal Bar with criminal law work becoming an increasingly bleak prospect for younger barristers.  Inevitably, there will be a major impact on the quality of justice in the criminal courts.

It certainly seems odd that the government is obliged to spend 0.7% of GDP on international aid whilst, at the same time, proceeding with policies which remove proper access to justice for the British citizen.

International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015

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