MoJ defends legal aid offer following Law Society broadside | News

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The Ministry of Justice has signalled that it is unlikely to reconsider its criminal legal aid reforms following the Law Society’s decision to withdraw support for the current proposals.

Following further analysis of the government’s proposals and meetings with officials, Chancery Lane declared yesterday that the ministry had ‘botched’ its response to the independent criminal legal aid review.

Justice secretary Dominic Raab has insisted the government’s package matches the review’s central £135m recommendation. Critics including the Society claim analysis of the consultation document and impact assessment show it does not.

As as well describing the government’s words as ‘spin’, the Society advised criminal defence practitioners to think ‘long and hard’ about whether they want to continue doing publicly funded work as it no longer believes the work is economically viable.

In a statement today, a spokesperson for the ministry said: ‘We have accepted Sir Christopher Bellamy’s recommendation for an uplift in fees and our proposals will deliver an extra £135m a year in criminal legal aid – the biggest increase in a decade.

‘This is alongside our ambitious proposals to ensure professionals are better paid for the work they carry out, boosting pay for lawyers representing suspects in police stations, magistrates’ court and youth court by 15% and funding the training and accreditation of solicitors and solicitor-advocates.’

The ministry said it encouraged the legal sector to engage in its consultation ‘so we can guarantee this uplift will make the sector sustainable for the future as we build back a stronger and fairer society after the pandemic’.

The department also pointed out that alongside the disputed 15% uplift in certain fees, it is proposing to invest a further £10m in reforming the litigators’ graduated fee scheme.

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