Legal aid: Society seeks permission to challenge Raab in court | News

The Law Society has asked the High Court for permission to challenge the government’s actions over criminal legal aid reform – declaring that it will do everything in its power to secure a fair deal for solicitors.

Society president Lubna Shuja said Chancery Lane was left with no choice but to seek permission to bring a claim for judicial review after the government rejected a proposal of independent mediation.

The solicitors’ representative body is seeking a judicial review over the government’s response to the independent criminal legal aid review, which was led by Lord Bellamy, who is now a justice minister.

The review, published towards the end of 2021, recommended an immediate 15% uplift for solicitors and barristers. The government published its final response to the review a year later and said solicitor firms would see a total fee increase of around 11%.

By contrast, last July, the government laid a statutory instrument implementing a 15% uplift in legal aid fees for criminal barristers, which would apply to new cases from 30 September. A few weeks later, to halt the criminal bar’s industrial action, the government agreed to apply the 15% uplift to the vast majority of cases in the Crown court backlog.

Last month director of public prosecutions Max Hill KC

Hill is believed to have received £30m to restore parity between prosecution and defence fees. Shuja told the House of Commons justice committee in January that £30m was needed to fill the gap between the government’s offer to solicitors and the review’s 15% recommendation.

Shuja said today: ‘The government found the money for defence and prosecution barristers but is short-changing solicitors, who are the backbone of the criminal justice system. Lord Bellamy described their situation as more “parlous” and the rates for the work they do are stuck in a mid-90s time-warp.

‘The criminal justice system is collapsing around us due to wholly inadequate government investment and irrational policy-making. The Law Society will do everything in our power to get a fair deal for defence solicitors and ensure access to justice for all.’


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