On Friday, the latest round of Legal Aid cuts which had seen legal aid lawyers fees capped were revoked following a legal challenge in the High Court. The reduction in fees which was implemented in December 2017 was ruled to be ‘unfair, flawed and irrational’.
The cuts reduced the fees for criminal lawyers defending suspects in complex trials. The claims for reading up to 10,000 pages of evidence were reduced to a maximum of 6,000 pages, dramatically reducing the amount solicitors could claim per case.
The High Court has now ruled that these cuts were unlawful, and that the government’s consultation policy was flawed due to it failing to disclose key statistical analysis, which was only made pubic during the course of litigation. The Ministry of Defence detailed rising cost trends for complex cases as a result of trial evidence including social media posts, telephone communication data and computer forensic reports.
Lord Justice Leggatt stated the government’s defence consultation process was without merit. President of the Law Society Christina Blacklaws commented that criminal solicitors provide a public service and the fragile criminal legal aid market cannot withstand any further cuts. The Ministry of Defence released a statement on Friday, stating that defence solicitors do valuable work, and that careful consideration will go into the judgement to determine the next steps.
Friday’s ruling came a week after warnings were issued from the Justice Select Committee that cuts to criminal legal aid risked eroding public right to legal advice and could furthermore undermine the rule of law. The committee called an urgent review of funding of all elements of the criminal justice system, and pressed for a review of criminal legal aid that will begin next year.