Proposals to change the legal aid payment scheme for advocates in the Crown Court are likely to be a massive disincentive to solicitors who currently undertake vital work which involves serious criminal cases including murder, rape and robbery.
Responding today to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) consultation on reforming the Advocates' Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS), Law Society president Robert Bourns said: "Analysis conducted and published by a large number of barristers' chambers and law firms which undertake work in the crown court show that the junior bar and solicitor advocates will be considerably worse off under this scheme.
"Well paid QCs will benefit from a pay increase, meanwhile advocates towards the bottom of the pay scale will either stay the same or receive much smaller increases.
“The MoJ has based the proposals on a flawed notion of 'case mix' which does not exist. The proposals would not promote compliance with ongoing initiatives such as Better Case Management (BCM).”
The Law Society consultation response quotes extensively from the responses published by barristers' chambers and solicitors' firms, which cast doubt on the MoJ’s assertion that the proposals are cost neutral.
Robert Bourns added: "This is a dedicated workforce which has not received a fee increase since 1998. There is a significant risk that the firms who undertake this work, which includes dealing with highly vulnerable people, will go bankrupt, risking localised market failure and advice deserts, and jeopardising the administration of justice.
“The Law Society's response includes amendments to the distribution of the fees in the proposed scheme which we think will make the scheme workable."
Notes to editors
Read the Law Society's response to the MoJ's consultation
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