Lawyers call an end to Legal Aid Action

Solicitors and Barristers over the UK have recently been on strike action due to the criminal legal aid cuts and proposed changes to Criminal Duty Contracts. Solicitors were striking from July 1 when 8.75% cuts to legal aid fees were introduced. The action meant a ‘no returns’ (where advocates will not take on another advocate’s case due to unavailability) policy and no new instructions, this effectively removes the goodwill of barristers and solicitors in dealing with other professional’s cases at short notice.

Up and down the county this has led to cases having to be adjourned as Defendants have no legal representation. It has meant many serious trials have had to be abandoned and adjourned for many months.

The reduction in the number of contracts for duty work from around 1600 to 527 is due to take effect in January 2016 and will have a devastating impact on the profession. This is particularly significant in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland with only 4 contracts available to cover the whole area.

However from on Friday 21st August, the decision was taken to end the striking. The decision was taken by CLSA and LCCSA, who stated they had engaged with the MoJ and by doing so, have been able to provide ideas for long terms savings as a direct alternative to a cut in rates.

The decision as to what firms will be awarded the Criminal Duty Contracts will be announced in September of this year. The contracts coming in to force will unfortunately see a number of small law firms struggle to survive.

Emery Johnson Astills take the view that representation at both the Police Station and at Court is an important matter for defendants and is necessary to preserve a high quality of representation for all members of the public, not just for those who can afford to pay privately for representation.

People who find themselves before the Courts require a high quality of representation not only to avoid immediate custody, but to enable them to understand the Court procedure and access them help to community services, lowering the risk of reoffending.

If you require any assistance with legal aid matters please contact the office on 0116 255 4855 and ask to speak to a member of the Crime Department.