Join the fight to save the criminal justice system
The government has let down defendants, victims and witnesses, warns the Law Society of England and Wales as it ramps up its campaign to save the criminal justice system.
In a newly released call to action, Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce rallies the legal community to “join the fight” and respond to the UK government’s consultation on criminal legal aid.
“The government has failed the justice system and has let down victims, defendants and witnesses,” she said.
“We need the legal community to come together right now and speak with one voice if we are going to stave off a disaster.
“The criminal justice system has been brought to its knees across England and Wales.
“Victims, defendants and witnesses are suffering the consequence whilst hard-working solicitors are being forced out of the sector in droves by the economic reality.”
In the video, the Law Society president explains how it appeared UK government had finally answered the call for the first significant funding increase for criminal legal aid solicitors in 25 years.
But it soon became clear that what the government was offering was well below the recommended bare minimum 15% fee increase – just 9% – despite criminal defence solicitors being needed more than ever with a huge backlog of criminal courts cases and more police officers being recruited.
The number of criminal legal aid firms has almost halved in the last 15 years because the work is no longer financially viable.*
Our research shows that duty solicitors – who provide a vital public service, attending police stations at all hours of the day and night for incredibly low rates of pay – are increasingly scarce in some parts of the country.**
Duty solicitor Kelly Thomas explains that criminal defence lawyers continue to do the job because of their “passion and the pursuit of justice” but are “watching the justice system erode around them”.
The heavy workload, poor rates of pay and work-life balance mean few young lawyers see the profession as an attractive option.
Stephen Davies, who is one of only 4% of duty solicitors who are aged under 35, said the “next generation are not willing or wanting to do this” with the result that the “profession is heading towards extinction”.
Why does this matter?
“We are coming to a position where there won’t be that check on the state’s power to arrest and detain and put a person through trial, who may be innocent,” said experienced criminal defence solicitor, Joe Mensah-Dankwah.
Notes to editors
- * As of February 2022, there were just 1,062 firms holding a criminal legal aid contract compared with 2,010 in October 2007
- ** See our duty solicitor heatmaps
- Watch the video and respond to the criminal legal aid consultation Watch the video and respond to the criminal legal aid consultation
About the Law Society
The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.
Press office contact: Nick Mayo | 020 8049 4100