Crisis deepens in criminal justice system

Following news that barristers have voted to escalate their current legal aid action from 5 September, the Law Society is warning that solicitors will continue to vote with their feet in leaving the criminal defence profession unless more investment is forthcoming.

“Solicitors share barristers’ concerns about the collapsing criminal justice system,” said Law Society of England and Wales vice president Lubna Shuja.

“Solicitors are experiencing the same squeeze as barristers but many are limited in the action they can take by their professional obligations to their clients and their legal aid contracts.

“Whilst barristers vote to escalate their direct action, solicitors continue to vote with their feet by leaving the profession altogether. Many see no future in criminal defence work, following the Ministry of Justice’s failure to fully implement Lord Bellamy QC’s recommended minimum fee increases.

“The number of solicitors and firms doing criminal legal aid work continues to fall at a time when the criminal defence profession is needed more than ever to tackle the huge backlog of Crown Court cases.

“Meanwhile duty lawyer schemes in places like Barnstaple and Skegness are collapsing, meaning that people who are arrested may be unable to get advice in the police station that they are legally entitled to have. This would have serious adverse consequences for the fairness of any subsequent trial if they are charged.

“Victims and defendants are having to wait far too long for justice, with reports from our members of cases in some parts of the country now being listed for hearing in 2024.

“There is an urgent need for further investment in all parts of the criminal justice system to prevent its collapse and ensure justice for all.

“Our members are not striking but leaving altogether and action is needed now before it’s too late to turn the tide of solicitors and firms leaving criminal defence work.”

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Press office contact: Nick Mayo | 020 8049 4100