Miscarriages of justice will result from fresh cuts to legal aid budget, say solicitors

'There is no further fat to be cut, let alone meat or skin – we are cutting deep into the bone'

Nigel Morris
Wednesday 10 June 2015 18:09

Miscarriages of justice will result from fresh cuts to the legal aid budget announced on 10 June, solicitors are warning.

They reacted angrily to the Government’s decision to press ahead with a further 8.75 per cent reduction next month in their fees for legal aid work. Solicitors’ remuneration has already been cut by 8.75 per cent, a move which opponents claim has already led to redundancies and has forced small legal firms to close.

Shailesh Vara, a justice minister, said the £1.7bn annual legal aid bill for England and Wales was double per capita than in nations with similar legal systems such as Ireland and Canada.

“We still have a generous system compared to other countries. The continuing need to reduce the deficit means we must make further progress,” Mr Vara said.

He also confirmed the Government would implement plans to cut from 1,600 to 527 the number of contracts for solicitors to provide 24-hour cover at police stations.

Jonathan Black, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, said he was “bitterly disappointed” at the decision to force through the second fees cut.

He told the Independent: “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.”

Mr Black said: “There is no further fat to be cut, let alone meat or skin – we are cutting deep into the bone. “

Andrew Caplen, the president of the Law Society, said: “We are deeply concerned not only for the immediate future of the justice system, but for its continued survival in years to come.

“The administration of justice is a fundamental duty of government and access to justice is an essential part of that responsibility.

“The British value of a fair trial, enshrined in 800 years of Magna Carta, has been built on the foundation that the innocent are acquitted and convictions are sound.

“Criminal legal aid solicitors are critical for ensuring that anyone accused of wrongdoing has a fair trial and yet few young lawyers see a future in this work, which is of extreme concern.”

However, Mr Vara said the Ministry of Justice had abandoned its plan to cut the amount of legal aid paid to barristers by £10m. He explained that it wanted to “protect the high standard of advocacy which is a hallmark of our justice system”.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in