The government has picked the day before parliament’s summer recess to lay the legislative measure enabling a long fought-for increase in legal aid rates to be paid from this autumn. One practitioner group desribed the increase as ‘an insult to justice.
Attacking the 9% increase as inadequate, the Law Society called on the government to take extra steps to safeguard the future of the criminal defense profession and the criminal justice system.
A statutory instrument laid in parliament today confirms that defense solicitors will start receiving increases in criminal legal aid rates from the end of September.
But the Law Society pointed out that the overall package for solicitors still amounts to a 9% increase, not the 15% that the Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid recommended as the bare minimum required.
‘It is positive to see some of the criminal legal aid rate increases for solicitors locked in,’ said Society president I. Stephanie Boyce. ‘But the overall package for solicitors still only amounts to a 9% rise. This must be the foundation for further increases not the ceiling.
‘The criminal justice system is in crisis,’ Boyce said. ‘The courts are crumbling, there aren’t enough judges and lawyers, and victims and defendants are facing unacceptable delays in accessing justice. This is a make-or-break moment for the criminal defense profession and the criminal justice system. The time to act is now, before it is too late.’
Boyce added that the Society is disappointed that the government has ruled out any increase in fees for prison law work, despite the review recommending a 15% rise. ‘Parole hearings are a vital part of the criminal justice system and solicitors play a key role in ensuring they run efficiently, and prisoners’ cases are presented properly,’ she said.
Hesham Puri, president of the London Criminal
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