Meeting of Criminal Legal Aid Contract Holders – Press Release
The position of criminal legal aid firms remains dire. Years after the commencement of the Criminal Legal Aid Review, and a year after the government-commissioned report recommended an immediate and minimum 15% increase in fees for solicitors firms as a bare minimum to sustain the failing market, solicitors find ourselves themselves with a significant shortfall in funding. The 15% increase (which was recommended before inflation hit 10%) on police stations and magistrates court will not sustain firms, with Crown Court fee income representing a significant portion of most firms’ income. Firms will continue to fail, duty schemes collapse and solicitors leave the profession en masse until this is rectified. More than 400 solicitors have left the profession since CLAIR was published. In the last 15 years more than half of firms have left legal aid.
We have called on the government to implement the Bellamy report in full, and immediately. To date we have no sense that we have been heard. Solicitors have also taken note of the fact that the Bar took successful industrial action and secured much needed further investment beyond the minimum Bellamy recommendations.
To that end the CLSA committee have decided to commission an advice on the legal position and practical options for the unionisation for criminal legal aid lawyers. Our members understand from recent events that only industrial action appears to be successful in securing much needed investment and as we look to the future and a sustainable profession, all options must be available to our members to take decisive action to safeguard the criminal justice system.