A new support package to help legal aid providers weather the coronavirus pandemic has been announced by the Ministry of Justice.
In response, the Law Society of England and Wales has issued the following statement:
“We welcome the fact that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) are seeking to enable practitioners to make payment claims earlier than they usually would,” said Simon Davis, Law Society president.
“If criminal law practitioners, who have to go into prisons and courts to keep the system of justice going, cannot afford to keep going themselves – the whole system risks grinding to a halt.
“It still remains difficult to judge the scale of this crisis. Whether this response is adequate will depend, among other things, on how quickly the police and courts are able to find new ways of handling more routine work – and thus maintaining a volume of cases throughout this period.
“It will also depend to what extent, if and when some form of normality resumes, workload increases above their pre-crisis levels - enabling practitioners to recover lost income. This cannot be presumed. Even if so, it would require practitioners to incur significant additional costs long before they see such an increase.
“Thus there is significantly more that needs to be done to ensure the criminal defence sector is able to make it through this crisis.
“It is vital that the LAA processes claims as quickly as possible whilst avoiding technical objections. The MoJ must keep its door open and respond urgently to any further feedback from the profession about the measures needed to enable practices to survive.”