Thursday, 20 August 2009

The cost of Legal Aid

The Ministry of Justice has just issued a consultation paper on the funding of Legal Aid in England & Wales.

It has some interesting proposals, at first glance:
  • To equalise the rates paid for defence and prosecution in legal aid cases;
  • Move towards single rates for police station advice
  • Simply arrangements - in particular with regard to the Litigators Graduated Fees Scheme
  • End payments for criminal file reviews
I have already spoken with a couple of criminal barristers about the review, and they are not happy. "Well, of course not" you would be entitled to say, since they are looking at a reduction in income. There seem to be particular concerns about equalising payments simply by reducing the higher fee to the value of the lower. Cheaper is not always better, and I know that some in the criminal bar have raised concerns about the number of miss-trials, which they suggest is through the use of less experienced, and so cheaper, counsel.

We must remember that the document from the MoJ is a consultation paper and so all interested parties will be able to have their say.

Let's hope, however, that the "slash and burn" still being visited on many solicitors is not going to be used the the government on the Bar, and that efficiency savings can be found by looking at the whole system and costs in the medium and long terms as well as just within one budget review period.

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