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Criminal legal aid solicitors to get £16m ‘pay boost’ for police station work

By Monidipa Fouzder >>

(29 January 2024)

Criminal legal aid solicitors will get a ‘pay boost’ for police station work, the government declared today – however, practitioners will not see the extra £16m until summer at the earliest.

Just over a year after deciding to use money set aside for training grants, expanding the Public Defender Service and long-term LGFS reform for police station fees instead, the Ministry of Justice is today opening an eight-week consultation on how to allocate the money. The funding increase will apply to ‘new work from summer 2024’. The consultation is due to be published this afternoon.

The ministry said: ‘Currently, fees do not appropriately differentiate between case complexity meaning a lawyer spending 30 minutes on a shoplifting case and five hours on a murder trial would likely receive the same fixed fee for both jobs.

‘The fee system is also outdated as it involves solicitors navigating over two hundred different fees across England and Wales, each representing a different police station location with the pay-out for neighbouring stations varying widely. This means solicitors can receive vastly different amounts in similar areas for working on similar cases.’

The ministry is also allocating an extra £5.1m for youth court work and said fees for the most serious offences will rise by £548 per case.

Lord chancellor Alex Chalk MP said: ‘Solicitors working in police stations play a critical role in ensuring access to justice by giving people legal advice, often at antisocial hours and at a moment’s notice. It is right that they receive a substantial pay increase to reflect the importance and complexity of their work. This longer-term investment will also help ensure solicitors are paid more fairly in the youth court with the enhanced fee helping to recruit and retain solicitors who do essential work to uphold the fairness of our justice system.’

Law Society president Nick Emmerson said the new cash still leaves increased expenditure below the minimum recommended by the Bellamy review to nurse the sector back to health: its impact has already been wiped out by inflation.

Emmerson added: ‘The consultation paper recognises that a standard fee scheme, which better reflects the actual work solicitors are required to do, is the way forward for police station fees and we look forward to working with the government in developing that. However, reform will only succeed if there are significant further increases in criminal legal aid for solicitors’ firms, as otherwise the current exodus of criminal law solicitor will continue and duty schemes across the country will continue to collapse.’

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)