Most generous legal aid spend in the World

Divesting legal aid spend from the Justice systems is illogical. The legal aid spend is directly related to how the Justice systems are managed, run, operated and funded.

The legal aid spend is also driven by number of arrests, number of people being charged to Court, how the guilty are punished and how prisoners are processed through the Prison estate.
Some popular newspapers and some politicians blame legal aid spend on lawyers. The rise in the number of legal aid lawyers is said to have driven the purported rise in legal aid spending. That’s a bit like blaming a rise in doctors for the rise in ill health.

Luckily for us all The Justice Committee has published a report into legal aid spending (see page 12)

Legal aid is mostly paid through fixed fees. The high hourly rate and milking of cases for which lawyers are purportedly famous doesn’t therefore apply in legal aid cases. The fee is fixed. The remuneration fees are published.

Also to undertake legal aid work Solicitors have to have a contract with the Legal Aid Agency. Solicitors are audited by the LAA. Solicitors have to show expertise to be given a contract.
There has only been cuts to legal aid fees for years. This is because politicians won’t address the real costs drivers.

There is no need for nor justification for further legal aid fee cuts.

The Law Society has published an alternative to the MoJs PCT proposal. For this some (and no one can be quite sure how representative they are of the whole) have claimed betrayal.

I have read these proposals. I don’t find them abhorrent. I am in a two partner firm.

The criminal legal aid market is contracting. Fewer people are being brought to Court. Fewer being arrested. Fewer are in prison. The Law Society alternative offers a pathway through that reality.

We also have a SSJ who doesn’t care about sustainability of law firms (despite what he says) and who has the power, without reference to Parliament, to set new lower fee rates.

My view is that the Conservative Party dislikes interference with and challenge to Government. The Abu Qatada debacle is an example. Apparently the law was wrong. The Human Rights Act and The European Court were to blame for stopping the Government from doing what it wanted to do. Yet he has been deported. That’s because the Home Secretary and the Government complied with the law.

The PCT proposals also attack Judicial Review because that is how people challenge the Government.
There is soon to be a debate in the Lords on legal aid reform. The briefing Note is very informative.

Now that the epetition has exceeded 102000 signatures I would hope thee is a proper debate and vote in Parliament-the sooner the better.

The MoJ Confrontation

Well the first thing to say is the sound system was rubbish. No microphones for audience. Difficult to hear what was said.
Second the message isn’t clear. The main man from MoJ said competitive tendering was the only game in town but the model was up for discussion. However “the boy” said that anything was up for debate as Ministers decided what to do and PCT was model the Legal Aid Policy team came up with.
None of the LAP team had any legal experience. So what?

Well their “understanding” of the criminal justice system was based on what they’d read. What a shame the MoJ don’t talk to lawyers before they dream up the solution. PCT is based on idea there are too many lawyers. Somehow this affects the legal aid budget. Quite how is still not clear. The answer seems to be that some firms have said (when? To whom? which ones?) that there are too many firms for too little work. This is the very same stuff spouted for BVT which was determined to be unworkable.

Apparently the brief to LAP team is to save £220 million.

However in a market priced on number of cases the MoJ can’t control costs as MoJ don’t control number of defendants.

So plan is to take those with more than £37500 out of legal aid. These people will have to pay for their defence. But if acquitted this innocent person will only be reimbursed if they have applied for legal aid and been refused. Even then they shall be reimbursed at legal aid rates. So someone who is acquitted could face financial ruin. Does that sound right??

What is the incentive to build a business under PCT?

Why use the independent Bar at all?
Ring fencing the Bar leaves them open to annihilation.
PCT will result in using “cheap labour” so quality will suffer.

So the LAP team have created a proposal which will interfere with the market for no good reason. There’s no evidence to support the model proposed. The hypothesis is flawed. There’s no guarantee of volume just of share.
The LAP team aren’t thinking about other areas of CJS so thinking is disjointed.

What about “choice”, one of the pillars of the Big Society?
The LAP team don’t seem to get it at all. Nor do they see the connection with quality.

The other main problem with this Confrontation process is that the MoJ representatives won’t discuss anything not in proposal even though MoJ have suggested we come up with alternatives.

The man in charge and his side kick “the boy” were insistent that submitting responses to the consultation was the key message.

The real key message is the the MoJ is repeating same old rubbish spouted in favour of BVT and have no evidence that what they are proposing will deliver savings or sustainable businesses( although what sustainability has to do with Government is beyond me).

The timescales are unrealistic.

This process is a waste of time and a Judicial Review waiting to happen. The trouble is that the LAP team aren’t really interested in proper discussion. It’s about time MoJ grew up and talked to us about real solutions to real problems and had a holistic approach. Instead of thinking about and writing proposals it would be better if MoJ showed some respect and talked to us.

The Confrontation process is a farce.

Michael Robinson
Emmersons Solicitors