A meeting of over 500 lawyers and barristers has voted unanimously not to accept the proposed cuts to legal aid fees that are to be implemented by the government. The vote, which took place at a meeting organised by the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, is the latest development in the ongoing row over legal aid rates and the government’s annual legal cost bill. The cuts on the table would see at least a 17.5% reduction in the fees available in cases, and up to a 30% reduction in some more serious types of case.
The cuts, which are proposed to be implemented by spring 2015, were announced after the government’s previous proposal of Competitive Price Tendering, was dramatically withdrawn by the justice secretary Chris Grayling. Although seen as the lesser of evils by some criminal lawyers, the cuts would undoubtedly have a measurable impact on criminal lawyers and firms that undertake legally aided criminal work.
Speaking in relation to the legal aid cuts, Paul Harris of the London Courts Solicitors Association commented: “It’s depressing we have reached this stage. If you are a criminal defence lawyer you believe in justice for all and that people are innocent until proven guilty, we have to stand up and be counted. These cuts are an insult to justice.”
There was further controversy surrounding the criminal legal aid debate in the same week as six leading QC’s publicly questioned the Ministry of Justice’s figures used in their arguments to proceed with the cuts. The QC’s accused the MoJ of using figures that are both inaccurate and “damagingly misleading”. One example cited is that the cost to the government of funding Very High Costs Cases (VHCC) has actually all but halved in the past five years; falling from £124m in 2007/2008 to £67m in 2012/2013.
Although no further course of action has been agreed at this stage, discussions within the various representative bodies are thought to be taking place over the coming weeks.
Frenkels Forensics is a leading provider of forensic accountancy reports for criminal defence solicitors throughout the UK. For more information about the forensic accountancy work we undertake in this area, please don’t hesitate to contact us.