Law Society considers advising members not to undertake criminal defence work

The criminal justice system will collapse unless the UK government funds all parts of the system equally, the Law Society of England and Wales has warned, as government announced a payoff for barristers to end their strike.

“The criminal justice system is in crisis and the government is falling way short of addressing it. You cannot fix the problems in the system unless you fund all parts of it effectively,” said Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce.

"Reaching a compromise with criminal barristers but not providing parity for solicitors is short-sighted given it is solicitors who make up the greater part of the criminal defence sector. The independent review the government commissioned made clear solicitors are in an even worse financial situation than their counterparts.

“Solicitors are the backbone of the criminal justice system, advising their clients from the first moment at the police station, through to passing of a sentence.

“They are not taking short-term disruptive action. They are simply leaving the profession permanently, in ever greater numbers because the work is not financially viable.

“And yet the government is currently proposing only a 9% rate increase for solicitors, 40% less than the 15% being offered to barristers, and far less than the bare minimum the Bellamy report concluded was needed for criminal defence solicitors’ firms to remain economically viable.

“Either the government thinks Lord Bellamy, who is now a minister, was wrong to insist on a 15% uplift for solicitors or they have simply decided to ignore him.

“Ever more solicitors will leave this work for good if the government doesn’t get its act together. Without them, the system will collapse, and justice will not be served for victims, witnesses and defendants.

“This exodus of solicitors would have a far greater impact than the barristers’ strike, with magistrates, youth and Crown Court cases and even police interrogations affected. Suspects would not be able to receive the advice from duty solicitors they are legally entitled to at the police station and the fairness of their cases could be called into question.

“Trust in the criminal justice system is in real jeopardy and a system collapse would embolden criminals.

“If solicitors do not get parity on the bare minimum 15% recommended by Lord Bellamy, the Ministry of Justice will have made it clear that there is no future in criminal defence practice and we will advise our members not to undertake this work. No responsible organisation could truthfully advise otherwise.

“We are meeting ministers urgently today.”

Notes to editors

See the government announcement here

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Press office contact: Nick Mayo | 020 8049 4100

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