Criminal legal aid

Response to independent review of criminal legal aid – Law Society response

Our criminal justice system is in crisis. The independent review commissioned by the government recommended a 15% increase as a bare minimum to keep the wheels of justice turning.

The proposals

Between March and June 2022, the government held a consultation on its response to the independent review.

Proposals include:

  • increasing legal aid rates, including for police station work and magistrates’ court fees
  • changes to fee structures to better reflect the work required on cases
  • setting up an advisory board
  • making training-contract grants available for criminal practitioners

The government proposals amount to an increase in remuneration for solicitors of just 9% overall (with a 15% increase only in lower crime).

Our view

The current funding proposals are woefully inadequate – 40% below the bare minimum recommended overall.

We believe this will not:

  • reverse the damage to our criminal justice system
  • persuade young lawyers that they could have a viable career in this sector
  • prevent the closure of more criminal legal aid firms, or
  • enable the courts backlog to be addressed

“The government’s proposed funding is not enough to maintain a criminal defence profession to uphold justice in this country,” said Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce.

What this means for solicitors

This is a make-or-break year for the criminal defence profession.

Many firms will be deciding whether to take up new criminal legal aid contracts in 2022.

If legal aid work remains uneconomic, defence firms will not have the capacity to take on the increased volume of cases needed to clear the courts backlog.

Next steps

The consultation closes on 7 June 2022.

The government will then review the responses.

It is likely to make changes in at least two stages, with a statutory instrument expected in autumn 2022.

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