The government have today published a consultation on Lower Crime Legal Aid Rates below.

We will be considering the content and replying in detail in due course. We cautiously welcome further investment into Legal Aid, and police stations in particular, although this appears be involve spending money that had been set aside as part of the Government’s response of CLAIR for future LGFS reform.

Police Stations

There are 2 police station proposals:

1. Fix 174 non-London schemes currently on a lower fee to £225.63 (excluding VAT). This means all 32 London schemes and 39 non-London schemes will see no increase; or

2. Fix 173 non-London schemes currently on a lower fee to £223.52, and increase 26 out of the 32 London schemes to £264.45. This means an average increase of £34+VAT outside of London, and £14 in London. 39 non-London schemes and 6 London schemes would see no increase.

The clear idea is to harmonise rates as far as possible but without fixing fees at the current highest fee level.

Both proposals appear to mean that 60% of all schemes will now receive the increased lower fee, and option 2 means 80% of schemes will see an increase.

Option 1 sees 60% get an increase.

The government’s preferred option is 2.

Under both proposals there will be some schemes that see no increase, mostly concentrated in the south east and London, but not exclusively. Our preference would have been for an allocation on a sliding scale so that all schemes benefited to some degree.

Youth Court

There are also proposals in the Youth Court.

The new Youth Court fee scheme would include an enhanced fee for the most serious offences (all indictable only and triable either way cases). These cases would receive a fixed amount of £548.33 (excluding VAT) in addition to the current fees paid for Youth Court cases under the magistrates’ fee scheme.

This enhanced fee would apply to standard fees and non-standard fee cases.

The combined total of the above is an extra £21m to be allocated to Legal Aid, and most firms will benefit from an increase, but we are disappointed to note that there will still be a number of schemes and so firms who will see little or no increase, and the extra Youth Court fees depend entirely on the police and CPS charging serious offences at a time when their aim is to divert as many youths as possible.

We will be studying the detail as it is also unclear whether the investment has been targeted in such a way to assist those police station schemes which are struggling.

The consultation runs for 8 weeks and we encourage members to respond.