The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has accused the Ministry of Justice of ‘pushing the nuclear button for the legal profession’.
Recent changes are turning the screw further on many solicitors and barristers whose practices depend on this kind of work.
The Coalition Government’s plans to cut £220 million from the annual Legal Aid budget of £2 billion by 2018 saw former chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, Max Hill, call for strike action last year.
Following the publication in April of the Ministry of Justice’s consultation paper on Price Competitive Tendering (PCT) in the legal profession, present chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, Michael Turner QC, told members: “If having read the consultation, anyone of you thinks this is anything other than the end of the legal profession, then read it again.”
Simon Broomer , Managing Director of Career Balance assists solicitors and barristers looking at new career options. He said: “Already the paperwork and bureaucratic hoops that lawyers have to jump through before they are allowed to take on legal aid work, and then to be paid for doing it, means that many solicitors and barristers have chosen to stop doing this kind of work. Job losses in the legal profession are inevitable, probably hitting smaller firms hardest. “
The CBA has accused the Government of being obsessed with money at the expense of access to justice for the poorest and most vulnerable. Many of these individuals may now have no other option than to represent themselves.
Richard Miller, the Law Society’s Head of Legal Aid, said: “’It is very concerning that the government appears prepared to sacrifice client choice, which is widely regarded as a vital principle and an important driver of quality in the justice system.
“We will examine the detail of the government’s proposals very carefully and urge members to respond to our own consultation on alternatives to PCT.”
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We have an excellent tradition of legal aid and one of the best legal professions in the world. But we cannot close our eyes to the fact legal aid is still costing too much. It is not free money, it is paid for by hard-working taxpayers, so we must ensure we get the very best value for every penny spent.
“Some lawyers earn hundreds of thousands of pounds from just one or two cases, and these cases can themselves cost up to £15 million each. And we’ve all heard of wealthy criminals with stashed millions getting legal aid to pay for their defence or of prisoners given legal aid unnecessarily.
To read more of Michael Turner’s message to members of the Criminal Bar Association, go to: https://www.criminalbar.com/latest-updates/news/q/date/2013/04/10/cba-message-wednesday-special-edition/
To read the Law Society’s consultation on PCT, go to: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/stories/consultation-procuring-criminal-defence-services/