On 24 March 2017, YLAL responded to the Ministry of Justice Consultation on the Litigators’ Graduated Fee Scheme (LGFS) and Court Appointees. Our full response to the consultation is attached below.
The LGFS is the scheme through which criminal defence solicitors are paid for publicly funded work carried out in the Crown Court. The consultation proposes the following reforms to Crown Court work:
- reducing the cap for claimable pages of prosecution evidence (PPE) from 10,000 pages to 6,000 pages; and
- reducing the fees paid for s38 court appointed advocates to legal aid rates.
The foreword to the consultation states as follows:
“Subject to the outcome of this consultation the Lord Chancellor is minded to not reinstate the second fee cut, which was suspended for 12 months last April, while targeted and modernising fee reforms are taken forward. We will seek to confirm this once the Government has considered the responses to this consultation.”
The consultation therefore threatens the reintroduction of the suspended second 8.75% cut across the board to criminal legal aid fees, subject to the outcome of this consultation. The clear implication is that if criminal lawyers do not accept the MoJ’s proposals for reform of the LGFS and Court Appointees scheme as set out in the consultation, the suspended cut may be reintroduced.
For the MoJ to premise a consultation on the basis that criminal lawyers have, in effect, no option but to accept the proposals, as otherwise they will be subjected to a fee cut which will cause many firms to close, is not an appropriate way in which to consult. It is a matter of deep concern to us that the MoJ considers it acceptable to engage with the profession in this manner.
We note the joint position statement in response to this consultation by the Law Society, Legal Aid Practitioners Group, Criminal Law Solicitors Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association. This states that those organisations oppose any further cuts to legal aid as proposed by the MoJ and that the “published data cannot be considered in isolation and does not justify cuts in any form. These proposals ultimately pose a threat to access to justice, a fundamental right at the heart of the justice system.” The position statement concludes that “a line must be drawn as the profession cannot absorb any more cuts.” We agree.
In summary, YLAL is opposed to all three of the proposals contained or referred to within the consultation: the potential reintroduction of the suspended second 8.75% cut, the reduction of the Pages of Prosecution Evidence (PPE) limit and the cut to fees for court appointed advocates. We urge the MoJ to reconsider the impact of its proposals, in particular on junior lawyers. Concerns about social mobility in the profession, and about the long-term sustainability of the criminal justice system should be at the forefront of this government’s mind. YLAL is dismayed that this consultation chooses to ignore these major issues facing the criminal justice system.
YLAL would like to thank Ben Stuttard for his help in preparing this response. You can read our full response to the consultation below.