Quicker payments for criminal legal aid solicitors after frustrating delays

Struggling criminal legal aid solicitors will be paid more quickly for their work in police stations when someone is released on police bail.

Following a closed consultation, the Legal Aid Agency is amending criminal legal aid contracts. From Saturday (1 July 2023) defence solicitors will be allowed to claim for their police station cases when their client is released on police bail.

“We have been lobbying the Ministry of Justice for this change for some time and are relieved that hard-working solicitors will now once again be paid more quickly for their work in police stations,” said Law Society of England and Wales president Lubna Shuja.

“Due to a recent change in the law, more detainees are subject to lengthy bail than was previously the case. This means duty solicitors have had to wait until a client is charged or released without bail before they can be paid.

“This sometimes is not until several months after they have done the work. Where firms had numerous clients in the same situation, they found themselves in financial limbo while waiting long periods to be paid.

“This change will allow duty solicitors to claim a month after their work in the police station.”

One firm described how it had 101 cases on bail – costing the firm as the money sat in a an ‘arbitrary no-man’s land’.

“Solicitors and firms continue to leave the criminal defence profession at an alarming rate – with several duty schemes on the verge of collapse - after decades of underinvestment in the criminal justice system,” added Lubna Shuja.

“While this change will help firms to survive in the short term, sustained investment by the government is needed in the long term to make this crucially important criminal defence work financially viable.

“Without criminal defence solicitors, court backlogs will continue to grow and victims and defendants will continue to face unacceptable delays in accessing justice.”

Notes to editors

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