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Criminal advocates face choice of two legal aid cuts

16 December 2009

The MoJ is offering criminal advocates a choice of two legal aid cuts next year.

Speaking to Solicitors Journal this afternoon, Lord Bach said the ministry had decided to offer advocates an alternative to an immediate cut of 18 per cent in defence fees.

Lord Bach explained that should advocates accept the MoJ’s radical cuts in fees for VHCCs, the ministry would reduce cuts in defence fees to 13.5 per cent and phase them in over three years.

“The staged reduction is much to be preferred,” Lord Bach said. “All solicitor advocates and a large part of the Bar, particularly the youngsters, will never have a very high cost case.”

Lord Bach said that although the earnings of “very well paid criminal silks” would be reduced, he hoped that the alternative proposal would “change the feelings of very many members of the Bar, who stand to lose less”.

He went on: “I’m not saying anyone is going to like it. We’re faced with a tough economic situation and we have to make hard choices.

“Everyone is involved in this and will have to make some kind of sacrifice.”

Lord Bach said that cuts to the fees of duty solicitors in the most “expensive and oversubscribed areas” would go ahead without further consultation.

Half the policed stations involved are in London and most of the others in the bigger cities.

Separate fees paid to solicitors for committal hearings will also be abolished, together with fees for file reviews. The MoJ said it hoped the combined cuts in fees to solicitors would achieve a saving of £23m.

Lord Bach added that the further consultation on advocates’ fees, which begins today, would last for ten weeks, concluding at the end of February when the results of the separate consultation on VHCC fees would also be known.

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Legal Aid Procedures Vulnerable Clients Local government