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Justice Secretary reveals legal aid review is on its way — just one day after government confirms further cuts

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As Secret Barrister condemns plans in devastating tweets

David Lidington, the Justice Secretary, has said he’ll make an announcement on reviewing the impact of legal aid cuts in the “very near future” — just one day after the government confirmed further slashes to the criminal justice system.

Smooth-talker Lidington gave a parliamentary evidence session performance worlds apart from that demonstrated by his predecessor, Liz Truss, this morning. In it, he told the Justice Committee a review into the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 is “forthcoming”. He also said he’ll look at the suggestions made by campaigners as part of this review with “an open mind”.

He gave little indication of what the effect of that review might be, however. Addressing the committee — its head, MP and criminal barrister Bob Neill, pictured below — Lidington said that while he’d always welcome “being given a crock of gold from the Treasury”, he’s conscious all spending Cabinet ministers could make arguments they could use more money as well.

Bob Neill MP

Later, 1979 University Challenge champion Lidington was pushed on the vicious cycle of civil legal aid cuts causing more litigants in person, which then slows down the court system and costs the justice system more money. Though he makes no promises, Lidington said:

“I’m perfectly willing to look at the argument that you could save money in the longer term if you have some kind of triage legal advice upfront.”

Legal aid is a hot topic this week given the government has said it’ll press ahead with further cuts on the criminal side of things.

David Lidington MP

The Conservatives plan to reform the legal aid fees paid to solicitors in criminal cases. This, anonymous legal blogger the Secret Barrister explained in an irate but useful Twitter thread, comes on top of nearly two decades of real-term cuts to solicitors’ fees. He continued:

The public, the Secret Barrister concedes, may struggle to sympathise with the plight of accused criminals and those that represent them. But, he noted:

“Solicitors are the A&E staff of the legal world. They spend a lot of time dealing with people you may have limited sympathy for.
 It’s often patching up the devastation of alcohol and drug-fuelled violence, tragic accident and wanton human self-destruction.
 But just as you want properly trained and properly paid doctors and nurses, so you should want the same for solicitors. Just in case.
 Don’t let the government destroy legal aid solicitors by convincing you they’re just for ‘other’ and ‘bad’ people. They’re for us all.
”

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23 Comments

Anonymous

Clench!

Anonymous

Should have gone into corporate law

Irwin Mitchell Paralegal

I wish I wasn’t beasted all the time

Anonymous

Outside the top criminal sets, the criminal bar has no future. Accept a fused profession and move on

Anonymous

I don’t think fusion helps. The problem for Defence Firms has been that lower crime and smaller LGF cases (which make up about 95% of work by volume) pay so poorly that firms either break even or make a small loss on the work. These fees have been frozen for twenty years and cut by 8.75%. Only the high PPE cases generate profits, as at least LGF has been reviewed. It’s not a stable situation to be doing 99 cases at a tiny profit or a small loss and only make profits on the 1 big case that you hope comes in a some point in the year.

Sure, firms might try to fix the problem by recuiting barristers in house to bag the AGF, but that still leaves the problem that the litigation work, which has to be done is either loss making or makes tiny margins.

More likley is that firms will cherry pick and simply not act in a lot of the run of the mill cases, leaving a lot of people unrepresented.

Lord Harley of Counsel

Recruit an HCA to do the whole case and you are quids in.

Anonymous

That would be an HCA who reads and takes instructions on pages 6,001 to 10,000 for free would it?

Lord Harley of Counsel

It’s called pro bobo.

Anonymous

Ok. So all firms have to do is find HCAs who will work on cases for no pay. Problem solved then.

Lord Harley of Counsel

The criminal bar is nearly there.

Anonymous

True enough. But they are self-employed. Firms have to employ litigators to do the litigation on cases and they have to be paid. It doesn’t solve the problem to employ an HCA to do the litigation and the advocacy when the litigation element is unpaid. Big Fees on the high PPE cases have been cross-subsidising the lower crime and low PPE cases where it costs more to employ a solicitor even on £30k a year than the fixed fee generates.

You might as well say, we can at no cost double the numbers of police officers, doctors or nurses just as long as police forces / the NHS can find police officers / doctors and nurses who will work half the time for free. It’s true, but employees have this pesky habit of wanting to be paid.

The fees for High PPE cases still remain decent even after the cut, but are not now enough to make up for the very low fees for lower crime and low PPE cases. The logical thing for solicitors firms to do, is to just ditch the high volume / low profit cases, lay off staff who were doing those cases and leave 90% of people unrepresented.

Anonymous

Secret Barrister is a “she”!

Oh, Dear Jeremy!

Emily Thornberry pretending she was 30 years younger and still in practice, probably!

Oh, not you again tonight!

* Lady Nugee … anyway, likely!

Wendy

Do lawyers actually read telephone billing records ? Or do they use a computer to search them in a fraction of the time it takes to read them ?

Anonymous

No. Criminal Defence Lawyers get paid a fixed fee for all work on the case.

I know it can be confusing as the 300 or so police officers, CPS Reviewing Lawyers, CPS Case workers, it takes to upload the papers on a big case all get paid by the hour, but the Defence get a fixed fee.

So (for example) on the 5 handed s18 I am doing at St Alban’s at the monent the police worked very hard to produce their 1 page Phone Schedule. It only took 5 police officers 6 months to produce it. If they were paid at Defence rates they would have 95 pence from tax payer’s money paid to them. I have to check it against the unused to agree it.

The unused is about two hundred pages (served by the police in a format I can’t read as I do not have their software). After only 7 emails the police have served the raw data, which I will then use CTR-F to search and agree.

Defence Fee for doing so = 95p.
Prosecution Fee for doing so = 6 months at an hourly rate.

Do police officers and the CPS actually read evidence at a fixed fee or do they line their pockets by the hour?

Comrade Corbyn

But under a Jeremy Corbyn government, the judicial side of the English criminal justice system will brought in line with Cuba, Iran and China anyway! No presumption of innocence…verdicts decided in advance before the trials had even formally begun…extensive use of physical torture…and there is criminal no free or subsidised legal aid even in China anyway!

Meanwhile, Secret Barrister’s mates on Twitter have been wasting public money by make endless vexatious applications for permission to seek for judicial review. Have they paid the costs awarded against one of their (clearly nominal) litigants from Northern Ireland in their latest failed challenge yet?!

Not Comrade Corbyn

*making
* to seek judicial review

No time for champagne socialists!

“And if there were a system where the police, under pressure (as they are) to improve clean-up rates and buff their statistics, knew that charging repeat offender Big Dave with a burglary would see him being denied legal aid, whereas charging first-time offender Small Steve for the same offence would result in a defence lawyer fighting his case, there is a mighty incentive in place to pin the crime on the man with two arms tied behind his back, irrespective of the evidence. While most police would not, some would bend to the temptation. Some already do. We would thus roll into a system that encouraged prosecutorial malpractice. The wrong people being convicted, and the even wronger people – the real burglars, thugs, rapists – getting away with it.”

Why do I have this suspicious feeling that the Secret Barrister went to some fee-paying independent school, didn’t grow up on a Council estate (and certainly not from ‘Up North’!), comes from the SE (but not London, where he or she now lives and works), and his or her mother or father or both is or was a solicitor or also a barrister (and one of them or both some loyal and avid reader of Private Eye since it was first out in the ’60s…and old copies from Paul Foot or of the Socialist Worker can still be found “lying about” in the family home)…and no risk whatsoever of discovering hidden syringes tucked away somewhere in his or her present home, when e.g. the place needs a new boiler?!

And is the Secret Barrister actually real?!

Actually … the more I read into it, the more I doubt “the Secret Barrister” is actually a real junior practising criminal barrister! “[N]or does it detract from [Tony Blair’s] obvious political ability and judgment” … pass me the sick bucket! And Byline “Milifandom” Media … 😂 Makes even Breitbart London look respectable!

https://www.byline.com/column/66/article/1566

No real barrister would give an interview on Byline "Media"!

And what half-decent, self-respecting REAL aspiring junior barrister would possibly go anywhere near a site which hosts or even allows David Hencke AND “the FOIA Centre” (Mark Watts, basically!) of Exaro “fame”?!

http://barristerblogger.com/2014/12/03/exaro-spare-us-sanctimony-spare-us-bullying-try-bit-transparent/
https://vimeo.com/14865873
https://www.byline.com/journalist/foiacentre/biography
https://www.byline.com/journalist/davidhencke/biography

Not doing his or her homework perhaps?!

And what half-decent, self-respecting REAL aspiring junior criminal barrister would actually go anywhere near a site which hosts or even allows David Hencke AS WELL AS “the FOIA Centre” (Mark Watts, basically!) of Exaro “fame”?!

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