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Categorized | Legal Aid

Police Station Attendance

Police Station Attendance

The last blog looked at the proposals for legal aid reform. This item concentrates on one specific aspect of the proposed reforms, the reduction in police station fees.

The LSC currently spends £180m on police station advice and this spend is distributed across a network of police station duty schemes, all of which have separate fees. The claim is that there is inconsistency in the LSC’s current police station fees model. Quoted figures are that the fixed fee levels now in place vary widely across different schemes, between £140 and £340 per matter, including those that are geographically close to each other or have similar characteristics. Examples given are that fixed fees in London range from £249 in Bexley to £340 in Heathrow, while, in the Humberside criminal justice area, fees range from £163 in Scunthorpe to £226 in Goole. It was hoped that any inefficiencies in these fees would be resolved through best value tendering, but implementation depends on the pilot evaluation in 2012, with full roll-out not occurring until 2013 at the earliest. Therefore MoJ believe “that the current high levels of disparity in fees between areas should be narrowed now in order to reduce these in-built inconsistencies”.

The proposal is to rationalise the cost of police station duty schemes which combine the highest cost with the most oversubscription, excluding those areas that are best value tendering pilot areas. A total of 88 police duty schemes have been identified which are oversubscribed by over 400 per cent. These schemes also have fees which are above the national median national fee of £200. These fees are to be reduced by around 11 per cent, with the preferred option to reduce fees in areas that are both over-subscribed and have above median fees. 50% of these areas are located in London. It is not apparently proposed to reduce exceptional case thresholds.

The Law Society has launched a robust rebuttal of the proposals but their case would be considerably strengthened if everyone involved added their views. The consultation poses two specific questions:-

Question 1: Do you agree that reductions should be made only against areas that are both over-subscribed with above median fees?

Question 2: Do you have any other suggestions that would tackle the fee inequalities and deliver the required savings?

Answer these questions by all means, but do not be restricted by their limited range. You have nothing to lose by giving your views and, just possibly, something to gain. As my mother used to say, it’s better to light one small candle than curse the darkness.
You have until 12 November to make submissions. The full text of the consultation exercise can be found at:-

http://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/docs/legal-aid-funding-reforms.pdf

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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