All chambers doing legally aided work should be aware of the current MoJ Consultation "Transforming Legal Aid: Delivering a more credible and efficient system". See: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-legal-aid .
The government is seeking to deliver savings of £220m per year by 2018. The proposals are hard hitting and will have a serious impact on both barristers and solicitors. The headline proposals are:
- Restructuring of the current criminal Advocacy Graduated Fees Scheme to encourage more efficient working through a harmonisation of guilty plea, cracked trial and basic trial fee rates to the cracked trial rate; also a reduction in and tapering of daily trial attendance rates from day three.
- Introduction of tendering in criminal work.
- Reduction of all criminal VHCC rates by 30%.
- Introduction of income thresholds above which defendants would no longer receive criminal legal aid.
- Tightening of the rules regarding appointing multiple counsel in criminal cases.
- Reduction in scope of prison law cases that are eligible.
- Proposals to reduce solicitor representation fees in family public law cases by 10%.
- A residence test for civil legal aid, restricting eligibility to those with at least 12 months' lawful residence.
- Legal aid payments for judicial review cases to only be made if the permission application is successful.
- Merits test in civil legal cases amended to have at least 50 per cent change of success ('borderline' cases no longer eligible).
- Removal of 35 per cent uplift for Immigration and Asylum Upper Tribunal appeal cases.
- Barristers' fees for civil (non family) proceedings in Upper Tribunal, County Court and High Court to be the same as other solicitor advocates. Meaning a substantial reduction in the rates paid to barristers (though there will be scope for enhancements).
Responses to the consultation are due by 4 June 2013.
Please click on the links below to view the MoJ Consultation paper and the Bar Council Response.