Categorized | Legal Aid

Liverpool Roadshow

Liverpool Roadshow

The Law Society Roadshow rolled into Liverpool on Wednesday when a well attended meeting heard Richard Miller, head of legal aid, explain the current state of play regarding the new proposals on legal aid.

He was at pains to make it clear that, despite rumours to the contrary, the Society had not accepted the proposed package as a whole. In particular they were campaigning strenuously against all the cuts. National fixed fees will have a disproportionate impact on certain areas, particularly London and the south-east. The revised fee structures for magistrates and Crown court cases will also result in the same fee being paid for guilty pleas and for trials on a not guilty plea.

The Society preference was for a single-tier structure of contracts under which any firm that met the requirements would be entitled to a contract, which would include duty solicitor work. But there was unfavourable legal advice about this model and the two-tier model has been accepted as part of the wider agreement.

The MoJ has agreed that an unlimited number of own client contracts will be offered but there is not yet agreement regarding the number of duty solicitor contracts to be offered. Richard Miller said that Otterburn/Ling research on this subject was vital and asked for maximum input.

The general mood of the meeting was quiet, almost sombre, with none of the militancy that was such a feature of the previous Liverpool roadshow in May. It was generally regretted that the unanimity of the profession, which led to the major U-turns, has now largely dissipated.

Law society chief executive Des Hudson has today issued a statement on the Society’s stance on legal aid. First point is that: “So that there can be no doubt, I wish to restate unequivocally that the Law Society opposes fee cuts. We set out in our original response our view that the cuts proposed would be very damaging, and we supported this viewpoint with empirical evidence which we commissioned from Otterburn/Ling and Deloitte. We will repeat our concerns in the response to this further consultation and take other opportunities to explain their damaging impact.”

He goes on to say: “Many of our members would have preferred us to take a much more oppositional stance, refusing to engage, standing firm, just saying no, and supporting direct action. There is no doubt that the Society could have made itself much more popular by taking such an approach. However, we cannot see any path by which that strategy could lead to a better outcome for our members.” The full text of the statement is at: our-stance-on-criminal legalaid

Not that militancy is off everyone’s agenda. Criminal barristers are threatening disruptive action if the Ministry of Justice goes ahead with cuts in legal fees of up to 30%. Nigel Lithman QC, the new chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said barristers are considering a range of responses. They include refusing to accept new cases, even those from the Crown Prosecution Service, if offered on the basis of 30% cuts or any reduced rates.

A meeting of hundreds of London solicitors recently voted unanimously to take action in protest against the latest round of legal aid cuts. Paul Harris of the London Courts Solicitors Association said: “If you are a criminal defence lawyer you believe in justice for all and that people are innocent until proven guilty, we have to stand up and be counted. These cuts are an insult to justice.”

And the anti-austerity group UK Uncut blocked roads in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Cambridge, Hull, Northampton and Norwich in protest at the legal aid cuts. Spokesman David Conway said: “The government’s plans will block access to justice for millions of people. We’re blocking roads to make a stand against that and to make it clear how strongly people around the country oppose these outrageous plans.”

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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