Law Society takes the government to court
The fight for fair funding for criminal defence solicitors will go to the High Court after the government rejected the Law Society of England and Wales’ offer of mediation to resolve the issue.
“The government has failed to satisfactorily address the serious concerns we raised about the collapse of the criminal legal aid sector following years of chronic underfunding,” Law Society President Lubna Shuja said.
“We have therefore applied to the High Court for permission to challenge the government’s implementation of the recommendations made in the independent review of the sector.
“We believe UK government’s decision not to increase criminal defence solicitors’ legal aid rates by the recommended minimum 15% is both unlawful and irrational. It has had, and will continue to have, dire consequences for access to justice and puts the future of the criminal justice system in jeopardy.
“The government has repeatedly failed to take the crisis seriously and has rejected our proposal of independent mediation as a way forward. This leaves us with no choice but to seek permission to bring our claim.
“We are fighting for the future of the justice system through every avenue and every tool available, including taking the fight to the courts.”
“Talk of further funding in the future is too little, too late,” added Lubna Shuja.
“The government claims there is no real risk to access to justice. This ignores solicitors and law firms continuing to leave the criminal defence profession in their droves because the work is not financially viable – more than 1,000 duty solicitors have left since 2017.
“Our analysis suggests that there will be 19% fewer duty solicitors by 2025 and the number of firms doing criminal legal aid work will fall by 16% (150 fewer firms), leaving many people without access to a lawyer when they desperately need expert advice.
“The government found the money for defence and prosecution barristers but is short-changing solicitors, who are the backbone of the criminal justice system. Lord Bellamy described their situation as more ‘parlous’ and the rates for the work they do are stuck in a mid-90s time-warp.
“The criminal justice system is collapsing around us due to wholly inadequate government investment and irrational policy-making. The Law Society will do everything in our power to get a fair deal for defence solicitors and ensure access to justice for all.”
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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