The statement below is taken from the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association. There are plenty of other criminal legal aid groups around the country also meeting and voting to take action. After 20 odd years of cuts or freezes they may finally be cracking. Still I fear too little too late, the same as the criminal bar.
Lawyers in London met last night to discuss the future of the criminal justice system in the light of the Government's decision to impose a further 8.75% cut on solicitors from 1st July. Both solicitors and barristers have experienced falling fee levels since the 1990s. The meeting was unanimous that the levels of funding about to be introduced are untenable and that together with the ill conceived Two Tier contract scheme the MOJ risk irreparable and unconscionable damage to the Criminal Justice system.
The solicitors' firms have confirmed they will not act in Legal Aids cases after 1st July, as it will be uneconomical to do so to a required and acceptable standard. Other firms not present have indicated support, and the remainder are expected to follow suit. Any firm acting for clients under a Legal Aid Order at the rates set after July 1st, must be either running at a loss, or not properly representing their client to the appropriate professional standard.
LCCSA President Jon Black has said:-
"we have overwhelming support for this action, which regrettably is necessary as a result of the governments intention to implement cuts and the proposed further cuts amounting to over 50 % on some cases for January 2016 , without carrying out the promised meaningful review. Had the government listened to our representations they would know that these cuts are not only unnecessary but dangerous . We have drafted a protocol, and firms that seek to act in breach of this are letting themselves, their professional colleagues and their clients down."
Attendances as duty solicitor will initially continue, although that is also under review.
The independent Bar in London as represented at the meeting confirmed that they would not be prepared to undertake any work on any case with a Representation Order dated on or after 1st July in recognition of the damage that these cuts will have upon the Independent Bar. It was further proposed that the bar would re-introduce the No Returns policy for all existing cases in the Crown Court from the 1st July.
We read with interest the speech made recently by the Lord Chancellor and wish to make it known that we are keen to embrace innovation and change that leads to increased efficiencies.
We are not resistant to new ideas however we simply cannot understand how the Lord Chancellor envisages reforming a system in which he is cutting beyond a viable level, the fees of the very people who are essential for delivery and implementation.
We are aware of a large number of areas that have held similar meetings around the country. We join them in the hope that the Lord Chancellor will re-consider implementing these cuts. If he is in any doubt as to how strongly we feel then we would invite him to meet with us prior to the 1st July 2015.