Crime lower consultation: criminal legal aid – Law Society response
The Ministry of Justice’s proposals include:
- two options for increasing fees for the lowest paid solicitors working in police stations
- simplifying the different police station fees by increasing lowest fees in the scheme
- increasing the pay for solicitors taking on youth court legal aid work for the most serious offences by £548 per case
Police station fees
The paper proposes two options for police station fees
- Uplift the lowest fixed fees
This would see 174 non-London schemes increased to £225.63 as a fixed fee. All London schemes would be excluded from this option as they are all currently above £225.63
- Uplift all the lowest fees including London
This option would see 173 non-London schemes (out of 213) increased to around £223.52 and 26 (out of 32) London schemes increased to around £264.45
Youth court work
A separate youth court fee scheme that would include an enhanced fee for the most serious offences (all indictable only and triable either way cases).
These cases would receive a fixed amount of £658 (including VAT) or £548.33 (excluding VAT) in addition to the current fees paid for youth court cases under the magistrates’ fee scheme.
Note that this additional fee would not be payable for cases that are sent to the Crown Court, where the Crown Court fee schemes would apply.
Pre charge engagement work
The MoJ is also seeking feedback on practitioners' experience on the pre-charge engagement scheme, and how well it's working.
Prison law and Criminal Cases Review Commission
Disappointingly, although the MoJ states that it has modelled standard fee schemes for prison law and Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) work, as recommended by the criminal legal aid independent review report, it does not intend to go ahead with restructuring these fee schemes.
“While only a small step in the right direction and not all police station schemes will benefit from an increase, it is positive to see this consultation on police station and youth court fees is finally underway,” said Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson.
We welcome the proposed enhanced fee for the most serious cases in the youth court.
However, it is disappointing that prison law fees are still being neglected, with no proposed uplifts, given the bleak situation illustrated by the Association of Prison Lawyers (APL) recent report.
Reform will only succeed if there are significant further increases in criminal legal aid for solicitors’ firms, as otherwise the current exodus of criminal law solicitors will continue and duty schemes across the country will continue to collapse.
What this means for solicitors
These proposals apply to legal aid providers working at police stations and in magistrates’ courts in relation to people accused of or charged with criminal offences.
Funding increases will apply to new work from summer 2024.
We look forward to working with the government in developing a standard fee scheme, which better reflects the actual work solicitors are required to do.
The consultation closes on 28 March 2024.
We will be working with our Criminal Law Committee members and the crime practitioner groups to get a full understanding of the impacts of each proposal.
Share your views directly with the MoJ by responding to the consultation.