Solicitors have said that further cuts to the legal aid budget will lead to miscarriages of justice, the Independent newspaper reported yesterday (June 10). The government has decided to press ahead with plans to reduce legal aid solicitors remuneration fees and cut the number of contracts for solicitors to provide 24-hour cover at police stations.
Jonathan Black, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA), interviewed in the above article, was quoted as saying “Solicitors won’t be able to do a job as well as they were previously. They will cut corners and miscarriages of justice will happen.”
As we blogged previously, the reforms to criminal legal aid include an overall reduction in the number of duty legal aid contracts from 1,600 to 527, along with cuts to legal aid fees received by law firms. Last year a cut of 8.75 per cent was introduced to legal aid fees, while a further 8.75 per cent cut is planned to be implemented in July this year, for solicitors working in police stations and magistrates’ courts.
In March this year, despite previous legal successes, the Court of Appeal dismissed a legal action brought by the Law Society, the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) and the LCCSA, against government plans. In October 2014, the LCCSA feared that as many as two-thirds of criminal solicitors could lose their jobs.
In the Independent newspaper article (June 10) noted above, Jonathan Black said “There is no further fat to be cut, let alone meat or skin – we are cutting deep into the bone.” Andrew Caplan, president of the Law Society, interviewed in the same article, noted “We are deeply concerned not only for the immediate future of the justice system, but for its continued survival in years to come.”
Much of the legal profession is up in arms against government plans. Barristers and solicitors took industrial action in January and March last year, while last month an overwhelming 96 per cent of the membership of the Criminal Barrister’s Association (CBA) supported direct action against the government’s legal aid reforms – in a CBA membership survey.
To read the Independent article, please see Nigel Morris, ‘Miscarriages of justice will result from fresh cuts to legal aid budget, say solicitors’, The Independent, June 10