Blog

Subscribe to YLAL Blog

Karl Turner MP's report on Coronavirus and the Criminal Justice System

YLAL welcomes the Shadow Minister for Legal Aid Karl Turner MP’s recent report Coronavirus and the Criminal Justice System – Saving Access to Justice. The report can be read here.

The report recognises the importance of fair remuneration for criminal defence representatives as part of a just criminal justice system. It highlights that there have not been any rises in criminal solicitors’ legal aid fees for over 25 years, only significant cuts. It notes the conclusions of the Law Society’s 2014 Otterburn Report that, even long before the current public health crisis, most criminal solicitors firms’ finances were “precarious”, with profit margins of approximately 5%. Mr Turner’s report correctly highlights that without “serious and immediate intervention” in terms of funding “the entire system could collapse”.

We support the proposals contained in the report, including:

  • A reversal of the 8.75% cut to criminal legal aid fees imposed in 2014;

  • The Ministry of Justice should expedite the ongoing Criminal Legal Aid Review and should accept the feedback provided by the professional bodies;

  • The Legal Aid Agency should continue to make payments to criminal solicitors firms at the same rate as before the COVID-19 pandemic started and delay making any recoupments until the cash flow crisis has eased;

  • Business Rates Relief for solicitors firms and barristers chambers;

  • Proper financial help should be given to junior barristers who do not qualify for the COVID-19 Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

However, YLAL is clear that a properly functioning criminal justice system can only be saved by a complete and radical overhaul of the payment structures for defence representatives and a substantial increase in the levels of fees paid.

YLAL has been engaging with the Ministry of Justice extensively in relation to the Criminal Legal Aid Review and our response to the consultation relating to the accelerated areas of the review can be read here.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, YLAL has twice surveyed its members and has produced two comprehensive reports suggesting a number of measures that can be put in place to help mitigate against the difficulties faced by its members, many of whom work in criminal defence. The reports can be read here and here.

YLAL calls on all parties across the political spectrum to acknowledge the very real funding crisis that is ongoing within the criminal justice system, and recognise that without imminent and substantial action it will fail.

We request that all politicians support not only the proposals put forward in Mr Turner’s report but also commit to ensuring that further funding is made available to fairly remunerate criminal defence practitioners and ensure the survival of a properly functioning criminal justice system. 

 

YLAL Wales: Access to Justice and Legal Advice Deserts in Wales

 

YLAL Cymru hosted this virtual event on Wednesday 24 June 2020. The event was chaired by law student and YLAL member Crash Wigley, who introduced the panel of speakers who spoke on the impact of advice deserts in Wales. It was particularly prevalent that the lack of legal advice is affecting vulnerable individuals such as those with disabilities, the homeless and ethnic minority communities, and is exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19. 

 

Second YLAL COVID-19 Report

On 25 May 2020, Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) published its second report on the impact of COVID-19 on its members’ professional lives. This report considers survey responses collected between 2 May 2020 and 13 May 2020. We received 104 responses from those practitioners who would be eligible to be YLAL members. This report provides an update on YLAL’s previous COVID-19 report, which was published on 7 April 2020. 

YLAL Midlands: Immigration Detention & Refugee Rights during COVID-19

On 7 May 2020, YLAL Midlands held a virtual meeting on Immigration Detention and Refugee Rights During COVID-19

We were delighted to be joined by Dr Chelvan from No 5 Chambers, Ali Bandegani from Garden Court Chambers and Philip Armitage of Duncan Lewis. 

The meeting was organised by YLAL committee members, Malvika Jaganmohan and Sam Coe, and hosted by The 36 Group.

You can view it in full here