- Pay increase proposed for criminal legal aid solicitors carrying out vital police station work
- Reforms will also see substantial increase in Youth Court legal advice spending
- Funding part of Government’s response to the 2021 Criminal Legal Aid Review
The proposals are part of the government’s second phase of the response to the Criminal Legal Aid Independent Review (CLAIR), with the additional funding allocated in 2022.
The review found that existing police station and Youth Court fee schemes are outdated and no longer reflect the complexity of the work carried out by today’s legal profession, creating unfairness and disincentivising legal practitioners from taking on more complicated cases.
Currently, fees do not appropriately differentiate between case complexity meaning a lawyer spending 30 minutes on a shoplifting case and 5 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The fee system is also outdated as it involves solicitors navigating over two hundred different fees across England and Wales, each representing a different police station location with the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.
Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Alex Chalk 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.
The bulk of the investment – £16 million – will be used to increase fees for solicitors working in these police stations. In line with the Review’s recommendations, the consultation also proposes to simplify the different police station fees by increasing lowest charges in the scheme.
On top of this, £5.1 million has been allocated to increase the pay for solicitors taking on Youth Court legal aid work for the most serious offences by £548 per case. This will help reflect the complexity of the work done in the Youth Court which can deal with murder and sexual assault trials. These fee increases aim to encourage solicitor firms to specialise in this area to better serve the children and teenagers they represent.
This funding increase will apply to new work from summer 2024 as part of the second phase of government plans focusing on longer-term systemic reform.
Notes to editors
- £548 (not inc. VAT) fee increase in the Youth Court.
- The Government is consulting on these proposals for 8 weeks and the consultation can be found on gov.uk
- In December 2020, the government launched an independent review into the sustainability of the criminal legal aid sector and the report was published in November 2021. It looked at ways to make the profession a more attractive career choice and attempt to make long lasting changes, with the aim of ending the ongoing back and forth on pay levels, which can lead to industrial action.
- In March 2022, the Government published its response to CLAIR and launched a consultation setting out its proposals. This announcement is pre-allocated money as part of our government response to CLAIR in 2022.
In July 2022, the government published an interim response to the consultation which led to a 15% increase to most fees from 30 September 2022. The Government then published its full response in November 2022 which set out some of the proposals which it is now consulting on as part of the Crime Lower consultation. This consultation can be found here: Response to Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)