BSN News Update – January 2018
BSN reported in November 2017 that the Law Society intended to issue proceedings for a judicial review of the government’s decision to implement further cuts to payments made to solicitors doing criminal legal aid work. On the 25th January 2018, the Law Society issued proceedings.
The further cut to criminal legal aid payments was implemented on 24 October 2017. This is on top of multiple pressures defence solicitors already face in their efforts to ensure that justice is served.
As part of reforms introduced in 2011, payments to defence solicitors for cases were changed from hourly rates, to payments made on the basis of the number of pages of prosecution evidence (“PPE”) along with other proxies. It meant that for cases running into more than 10,000 pages, there was no need for solicitors to demonstrate the number of hours spent preparing the case for trial but instead, payment was made in accordance with a table, depending on the nature and seriousness of the case and PPE. Any excess over 10,000 had to be claimed for on an hourly basis, generally at a lower rate for defence solicitors.
In February 2017, the Ministry of Justice opened a consultation proposing a “a change to the Litigators’ Graduated Fee Scheme in advance of a new scheme being introduced, which would reduce the number of pages of prosecution evidence used to calculate the graduated fee from 10,000 to 6,000, with the additional pages being remunerated at hourly rates”. It received a total of 1,005 responses to the consultation on the cuts and the views expressed were almost entirely against the proposals.