Law Society to launch legal challenge over cuts


The Law Society has announced plans to challenge the government on cuts to legal aid for criminal defence cases in England and Wales.

The move follows repeated concerns about the state of the legal aid market and its ability to withstand further reductions.

The decision to take its case to the High Court was made after the Law Society voiced its fears that access to justice was under even greater threat from Ministry of Justice (MoJ) plans to reduce payments for crown court cases.

The MoJ proposal intends to slash fees for paper heavy crown court cases, which it claims lead to an increase in the average cost per case. The counter argument, however, is that fees for less complex crown court cases are so low that legal firms are working at a loss and that lawyers are often subsidising such cases from the proceeds of larger cases in order to represent vulnerable people.

Criminal defence fees were reduced by 8.5% in March 2014 and the Law Society believes that the impact of this has not yet been determined. Further savings are also set to be made from the courts and tribunals reform programme alongside other initiatives, which the Law Society also believes should be taken into account before a decision is made with regard to reducing fees further.

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