Law Society Criticises Criminal Defence Fee Cuts
The quality of legal representation for anyone accused of wrongdoing in England and Wales will be damaged significantly by new cuts to defence solicitor fees, the Law Society warned today.
Just five days after the Office for National Statistics published figures showing that crime has increased considerably, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced plans to cut the fees paid to defence solicitors.
Responding to the MoJ plans to cut fees to criminal litigators undertaking complex cases in the crown court, Law Society president Joe Egan said: “The relatively minor savings that might be obtained from these ill-advised cuts do not warrant the substantial damage they could cause to the sustainability of a very fragile market, and to access to justice in this country.”
Under the MoJ plans, payments will be slashed for paper-heavy crown court cases. The rationale is that more pages of evidence are now being served by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and that average costs per case are increasing.
Joe Egan said: “The MoJ says its vision is ‘to deliver a world-class justice system that works for everyone in society’. The reality is that rates for lower cases in the crown courts are now so low that firms doing this work have been making a loss. Often solicitors have been cross-subsiding this work with funding from bigger cases so they can represent vulnerable people accused of wrongdoing. These cuts are a quick-fix, money-saving solution. They are untenable, highly counter-productive and short-sighted.
“More pages of evidence are being served by the CPS because cases are now more complicated. Terror cases, fraud cases and serious historic sex cases require a large amount of work, for which solicitors should be paid. Defence solicitors have not received any fee increase since 1998. For some cases the level of remuneration under legal aid allows them to do no more than first aid. That is far from a world class justice system.”