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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. 

 

Legal aid news: July 2019

Welcome to our update of the latest legal aid and access to justice news from July 2019.

Celebrating 70 years of legal aid: On 30 July 1949  the Legal Aid and Advice Act received royal assent, creating the legal aid scheme. The 30 July 2019 therefore saw the 70th anniversary of this important step in the campaign for access to justice. In order to celebrate and highlight the significance of this milestone, the Justice Alliance organised a large gathering outside the Ministry of Justice.

YLAL Response to Labour Party’s 2019 National Policy Forum Consultation

YLAL was invited to respond to the Labour Party’s '2019 National Policy Forum Consultation'.  The purpose of the consultation is to seek 'views on how best to rebuild the criminal justice system so that at every stage effective action is taken to prevent further offending and provide real opportunities for rehabilitation'.

Many of the consultation questions are out of scope of YLAL's institutional expertise. However, YLAL has produced a response addressing the most relevant questions to our members.

Using the Law to Protect Refugee and Migrant Rights: YLAL Midlands event on World Refugee Day 2019

On 20 June 2019, YLAL Midlands hosted an event on the law relating to refugees and migrants and the increasing difficulties that individuals face in seeking safety or a better life in the UK. We also began discussions on building networks between lawyers, charities and community groups to empower individuals seeking to exercise their rights.