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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

Government announces extra funding for criminal legal aid solicitors

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Government announces extra funding for criminal legal aid solicitors

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'Biggest boost' to criminal legal aid lawyers’ pay 'in decades'

The government has today (Wednesday 30 November) announced reforms which it said will provide “the biggest boost” to criminal legal aid lawyers’ pay “in decades”.

The reforms are part of the second phase of the response to the independent review on criminal legal aid.

The government has announced an additional £11m for expert fees to eventually be paid each year, on top of an extra £85m for solicitors and £43m for barristers in legal aid payments to “ensure long-term sustainability for the sector”.

Changes include £16m to raise the lowest fees paid to solicitors in police stations – which the government says is “the first step” towards the simplification and improvement of fee schemes over the next three years.

Currently, fixed fees do not differ between case complexity, so those working on simple or complex more time-consuming cases would likely receive the same fee.

The restructure will standardise payments to distinguish between these cases; solicitors will be paid a different lower or higher standard fee to reflect hours of work done.

The government said the increase to the lowest fees would boost solicitor pay packets and overall funding for police station work by 30 per cent.

In 2024, the government will make proposals for reform on a new Litigators’ Graduated Fee Scheme (LGFS) – how legal aid funding is paid to law firms – to ensure solicitors are properly paid for work carried out on more complex cases in the crown court.

Proposals will include a new way to calculate payments which will reflect the type of offence, trial outcome and length and the amount of evidence in each case, rather than the current system which is based on the number of papers served to the prosecution.

Deputy prime minister, lord chancellor and justice secretary, Dominic Raab, said: “We are reforming criminal legal aid so our lawyers are fairly paid for the vital work they do delivering high-quality legal support for those who need it.

“We have taken on board the recommendations of the independent review and are modernising the system to deliver justice for victims now and in the future.”

£5m per year will be invested in the youth court to ensure solicitors who represent children in serious cases receive higher fees to better reflect the complexity of the work.

The government said the additional £21m of investment a year should mean firms see a total fee increase of around 11 per cent for all criminal legal work.