Solicitors will snub low-paid work in response to the government’s criminal legal aid reforms.
After voting to join the criminal bar in protest action, many London practitioners have said they will decline some work, beginning with burglary cases from May 25.
The Lord chief justice has already warned that if the legal aid dispute is not resolved, the numbers of criminal barristers and solicitors will continue to decline at a time when there is enormous pressure on the police and the prosecuting authority to bring more cases into the criminal courts.
The Law Society president I Stephanie Boyce said: “It is a necessary element in running their businesses soundly that they (solicitors) do not take on unsustainable amounts of loss-making work.
“The number of criminal legal aid firms has almost halved in the last 15 years because the work is no longer financially viable. Duty solicitors provide a vital public service attending police stations at all hours of the day and night for incredibly low rates of pay, and they are increasingly scarce in some parts of the country. The government’s failure to properly value criminal defence lawyers is driving this dedicated profession to extinction.”
The government says its proposals will ensure professionals are better paid for the work they carry out. However, the Society argues that the proposals amount to a 9 per cent overall package for solicitors, not the 15 per cent recommended by Sir Christopher Bellamy’s legal aid review.
The Ministry of Justice’s consultation closes on 7 June.