Forecasting criminal legal aid expenditure - January 2014
Research into legal aid expenditure forecasts shows that the Ministry of Justice could stand to make two thirds of the £120m savings it is asking for, without implementing its currently proposed cuts.
The research was commissioned by the Law Society, the Criminal Law Solicitors Association, the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, the Legal Aid Practitioners Group and the Big Firms Group and carried out by Oxford Economics.
Crime has been on a steady downward trajectory for the last decade, whereas the Ministry of Justice assumes it will remain at its current level in its expenditure forecasts. Assuming a continuation of the steady decade-long downward trend in crime, the research suggests legal aid expenditure could be £84m lower by 2018/19 than it would otherwise have been, without implementing the proposed cuts.
The research also highlights that lagged effects from past reforms are also causing a reduction in legal aid case costs, some of which may not have been fully taken account of by the Ministry of Justice.
Increased and more efficient judicial case management, consolidation within the courts system and measures to reduce the amount of prosecution evidence also stand to offer potential reduction in the level of saving required from the legal aid budget, meaning that the projected decrease in spending of £84m could be even higher.