Boost for criminal legal aid solicitors on bail cases
Following a closed consultation, the Legal Aid Agency is amending duty contracts from 1 July 2023 to allow our members to bill for their police station work a month after their client is released on police bail.
We’ve been lobbying the Ministry of Justice for this change and are relieved that solicitors will once again be paid more quickly for their work in police stations.
Due to a recent change in the law, more detainees are subject to lengthy bail than was previously the case.
This has meant duty solicitors have had to wait until the client is charged or released without bail before they can claim – sometimes several months.
The change will allow duty solicitors to claim a month after their work in the police station.
Case study: bail cases in a small firm’s cashflow
A small law firm turns over £900,000 a year.
So far, the firm has seen “zero impact in the immediate term” of the 15% ‘increase’ on lower crime work, as much of this money is sitting in an “arbitrary no-man’s land” of unbilled work.
In February 2023, the firm had 101 cases on bail – costing the firm around £20,500.
The practice manager does not expect to see this money for at least nine months on most (but not all) cases.
The firm estimates it could bill round £50,000, if it could bill within 28 days of attending in a police station.
That’s 5.6% of turnover entering the firm’s cashflow sooner.
As criminal defence firms struggle to make ends meet, this welcome change may help firms to survive in the short term.
However, unless the government meets the 15% minimum recommended increase in funding overall, many firms will struggle to make criminal defence financially viable as part of their business.
Our data projections show an alarming 37% in duty solicitors in a decade, putting the criminal justice system in jeopardy.
This could leave many people without access to a lawyer when they desperately need one.
The Law Society is fighting for the future of our justice system using every tool we have, including taking the fight to the High Court.
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