MoJ needs to ‘abandon the false premise’ that the justice system can take more cuts, says Big Firms’ Group

A group representing 40 of the country’s largest criminal defence firms has called on the government to ‘abandon the false premise’ that the criminal justice system can take further cuts. The Big Firms’ Group has added its collective voice to other representative groups in the growing opposition to the Ministry of Justice’s proposals for the  litigators graduated fee scheme and court appointed fees – as reported on LegalVoice here.

A statement from the Big Firms’ Group called the imposition of further cuts was ‘obtuse’.  ‘We believe the amount spent on criminal legal aid has already fallen further and faster than the amount that the MoJ was targeting in the original Transforming Legal Aid consultation,’ the group said. ‘Based on the research by Oxford Economics, commissioned by the Law Society, there is every reason to believe that it will continue to do so – without the need for further cuts.’

‘The Ministry of Justice needs to quickly abandon the false premise that the criminal justice system is sustainable on its current course. It is not.’
The Big Firms’ Group

The statement goes on to say that CPS ‘often struggles to get cover for cases because of a shortage of criminal lawyers’. ‘It is struggling to recruit lawyers, despite drawing from the criminal defence community – and offering much more generous terms of employment.  The exodus from the junior Bar is well documented by the Criminal Bar Association,’ it says. ‘The shortage of criminal solicitors is now leading to wage inflation in the criminal defence sector.  A perfect storm; as volumes of work continue to decrease, the effects of previous cuts continue to feed through the system, business costs increase year on year and firms incur the costs of making the transition to a fully digital criminal justice system.’

The group argues that the  latest proposal from the MoJ targets ‘a very small number of the overall cases – in a system in which many cases are already woefully underpaid and do not reflect the work that needs to be done’.  ‘It genuinely seems as if the MoJ is deliberately trying to find the straw that will break the back of this long suffering camel.  It may have succeeded this time.’

 

About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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