'Baffling' government stance on criminal legal aid galvanising the solicitor profession

The government’s blunder in failing to implement long-awaited criminal legal aid rate increases for solicitors is pushing the profession towards disruptive action, the Law Society of England and Wales has warned.

Criminal legal aid firm owners have this week been discussing what steps they can take as they wait for the government’s final response to the Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid later this month.

“An escalation of action by law firm owners is near inevitable given the government’s baffling refusal to implement our demands for the bare minimum 15% increase for criminal defence solicitors, which was recommended by their own review,” said our president Lubna Shuja.

“The government caved in to barrister strike action but is refusing to give parity to solicitors who kept the wheels of justice turning during that strike. This has angered and galvanised the solicitor profession. Some criminal law solicitors are now considering forming a union to organise direct action. They have seen that this government does not listen to reason and that direct action gets results.

“Solicitors are the backbone of the criminal justice system. Without them it will collapse. They are leaving the profession in droves because they are not being treated fairly and equally. If nothing is done to stop those remaining from leaving, the court backlogs will continue to grow, access to justice will be denied to many, defendants will not be prosecuted and talk of being ‘tough on crime’ will be nothing but empty promises.

“Ultimately this is a question of government competence. Do they have a joined-up plan to tackle the crisis in the criminal justice system? What we have seen so far suggests they do not and the danger of this is that trust in the system will be fatally undermined.

“If the government doesn’t give solicitors parity when their full response to the review is published later this month, we will advise our members that there is no viable future in criminal legal aid work.”

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Press office contact: Nick Mayo | 020 8049 4100

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