A disappearing fig leaf
The MoJ has published the latest quarterly stats. The Law Centres Network’s head policy Nimrod Ben-Cnaan tweeted his thoughts: the civil scheme continued to shrink; and the spend on social welfare dropped 9% to £33m and the last quarter revealed 7% less housing cases than the year before and, as he noted, ‘there’s a housing crisis on, people!’
‘Basically, the current civil #legalaid system is a fig leaf. And every year, with fewer new cases, that fig leaf shrivels and exposes more of the naked shame of injustice, that the government has caused and is allowing to continue.’
— Nimrod Ben-Cnaan (@niminally) December 13, 2018
In a final article as LAPG chair, Carol Storer reported that she had been approached about going back into housing law. ‘Would I go back? Could I go back? And that’s what struck me – absolutely not,’ she wrote for Legal Action. It was hard enough for lawyers seeing so many clients in crisis, she said. ‘It is stressful turning away so many desperate people. Stress permeates teams – from partners and managers through to junior lawyers and support staff.’
Storer wrote that she would love to become a lawyer again. ‘I miss the Bow County Court duty scheme – my record being 16 clients in one afternoon. I would happily go back to the coalface.’
But what she could not bear was the bureaucracy. ‘I listen to experienced practitioners and they are often demoralised, weary or apoplectic,’ she said.
Delayed LASPO review delayed
LASPO review: @MoJGovUK tell me that its “wide-ranging review of legal aid reforms” will be published “early in the new year” and not this year as expected. MoJ: “We have met with over 100 organisations and individuals since March and their views have been extremely valuable.”
— Joshua Rozenberg (@JoshuaRozenberg) December 13, 2018
As reported by the Law Society’s Gazette here.
Criminal legal aid review
In this week’s weekly newsletter from the Criminal Bar Association, the legal aid minister Lucy Frazer QC reported that the government was that day introducing legislation to bring into force the recently announced £8 million extra in the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS). ‘We know the process has taken longer than hoped and so have committed to bringing forward a 1% increase across fees, to come into effect alongside the new scheme rather than from April next year,’ she wrote; before adding that ‘we also know that these changes will not resolve all of the concerns raised’.
‘That is why we have also committed to a fundamental review of criminal legal aid payment schemes. This will go far beyond the previously announced review of the new scheme and consider criminal legal aid throughout the lifecycle of a criminal case. As part of this, we will consider wider concerns raised during the consultation, as well as the recent reports on criminal legal aid and disclosure by the Justice Select Committee and the Attorney General’s review.’
Meanwhile Frazer also wrote about proposals for flexible courts in the Gazette (here).The MoJ had heard concerns from lawyers in the criminal courts. ‘We have decided to proceed only with pilots in the civil and family courts,’ she wrote.
‘Testing early morning and evening hearings will enable more people to attend court at different times of the day. We hope that this will alleviate some of the stress that is naturally associated with attending court by allowing some people the opportunity to fit attendance around their everyday lives. It will also mean that legal professionals – as well as the judiciary and court staff – will have the option of working in different patterns to those of the traditional court day. For some this may be an opportunity, but we recognise that it may be more difficult for others.’
Lucy Frazer QC
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