Concern as Criminal Defence Lawyers Face Extinction
The Law Society has issued a warning about the future of criminal defence law in England and Wales.
Government cuts and 20 years without increases in fees have led to a dearth of young lawyers taking up a career in criminal law. The combined effect has resulted in an increasingly ageing part of the profession as younger solicitors no longer see a viable career practising in this area of the law.
The concern has been echoed by defence solicitors who are uniting to highlight the damage lawyers believe the government is doing to the criminal justice system.
Although across the whole criminal defence profession only 27% of solicitors are over 50, data has revealed that in Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, West Wales and Mid Wales over 60% of criminal law solicitors on duty rotas are aged over 50.
Worryingly, there are no crime solicitors under the age of 35 in in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cornwall and Worcestershire and only one each in West Wales and Mid Wales. With just two, the situation in Devon is not much better. Leicester is the only county where the age of criminal defence lawyers is roughly in proportion with 30% over the age of 50, followed by Buckinghamshire which has 34%. In and around London, the figure is approximately 40%.
The view from the Law Society is that, if the trend continues, in five to 10 years people won’t be able to access their rights in many regions and if the situation continues criminal defence lawyers in England and Wales could become extinct.
The Law Society has developed a ‘heat map’ of the demographics by county, which can be found here.