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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 Meeting: Remote justice and our clients: the view from YLAL North

On Wednesday 22 April 2020, YLAL hosted its second remote meeting, 'Remote justice and our clients: the view from YLAL North'. 

We were delighted to be joined by four expert speakers and members of YLAL North: Alice Stevens (Broudie Jackson Canter), Elizabeth Ridley (Irwin Mitchell), Yara Ali-Adib (Broudie Jackson Canter) and Hannah Costley (Burton Copeland).

The meeting was expertly chaired by Rebecca Kingi, YLAL committee member and New Zealand-qualified solicitor at ATLEU.

You can watch the meeting here: 

Happy 15th birthday, YLAL!

YLAL is 15 years old today!

COVID-19 means that our party plans are on hold, however, we would still like to celebrate 15 years of fighting for legal aid and access to justice!

Please post your #YLALMemories on Twitter! Photos, anecdotes and any other YLAL-related memories are all welcome!

We attach the minutes from our very first meeting. Hopefully we have gone above and beyond the original aims!

Yours,

YLAL Committee

 

YLAL COVID-19 Report

On 7 April 2020, Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) published an important report on the impact of COVID-19 on its members’ professional lives.  The report analyses survey data collected from more than 300 YLAL members between 26 March- 03 April 2020.

Mental health and well-being in the legal sector: YLAL Midlands event, February 2020

On 10 February 2020, YLAL Midlands hosted an event on the challenges of working in the legal sector, with a focus on mental health and general wellbeing.

Our event began with contributions from the panel. This was chaired by YLAL Midlands and national committee member Malvika Jaganmohan, who has been vocal on Twitter about her own mental health struggles. She outlined the tension between having a frank discussion about mental health and also pursuing a career as a young legal aid lawyer.