Law Society vs government: High Court case gets go-ahead

The High Court has granted the Law Society permission to bring a judicial review challenge against the government over criminal legal aid funding.
Law Society wins High Court battle

The High Court has ruled in the Law Society’s favour in our judicial review against the Ministry of Justice.

Evidence from our members showed “the system is slowly coming apart at the seams”. Now, the government must rethink its irrational decision on criminal legal aid funding before the system collapses.

Find out more about our judicial review victory

Why we’re taking the government to court

We fear the government’s recent funding decision will have dire consequences for the future of the criminal justice system.

We applied for permission to make a legal challenge after the government failed to increase criminal defence solicitors’ legal aid rates by the bare minimum 15%, as recommended by Lord Bellamy’s independent review on criminal legal aid.

We believe the government’s decision not to implement the key recommendation of the Bellamy review is:

  • irrational
  • lacking reasons, and
  • in breach of the constitutional right of access to justice

The High Court has granted permission on all three grounds.

Fighting for the right to a defence

“The High Court’s decision to grant us permission to bring a judicial review challenge against the government is a significant and positive step forward in our fight to safeguard the future of the criminal justice system,” said Law Society of England and Wales president Lubna Shuja.

Duty solicitors continue to leave criminal legal aid work in their droves because the work is not financially viable.

Our research launched in June 2023 shows that more than 1,400 duty solicitors have left since 2017– a 26% drop.

We predict 618 more duty solicitors could be lost by 2027.

This could leave many people without access to a lawyer when they desperately need expert advice, putting the whole criminal justice system at risk.

“Funding solicitors fairly for the invaluable work that they do is one of several steps the government needs to take if it is serious about ensuring the criminal justice system has sufficient capacity to clear the court backlogs.

“A relatively small amount of money can make a huge difference to hard-working solicitors, who are the backbone of our criminal justice system.”

Two-thirds of solicitors believe access to justice has worsened over the past 10 years, citing the decline in legal aid due to underfunding as one of the main barriers.

Read about life working on the frontline in criminal defence from our members Katie Hanson and Chloe Jay.

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