£51 Million Support Boost Announced for Criminal Legal Aid

Following a review into criminal legal fee schemes, new measures are being implemented to stimulate the sector.

The Ministry of Justice today announced new measures to inject up to £51 million per year into criminal legal aid.

The MoJ had launched a review of criminal legal fee schemes at the beginning of 2019. The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, acknowledged in a foreword to the government’s consultation response that the department’s response had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he expressed optimism that the new measures – which he referred to as “quick wins” – will allow the ministry to “inject an additional £35m to £51m per year into criminal legal aid”.

In addition to adopting almost all of the measures proposed in the consultation, the Lord Chancellor unexpectedly announced that an independent review would be opened into the criminal legal aid system in its entirety.

The measures were welcomed by legal bodies, though analysts emphasised the need for further support.

Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said in a statement: “This money is desperately needed and long overdue for criminal legal aid barristers, who do crucial work in the public interest and, having been badly hit by years of cuts, have suffered drastic loss of work during the pandemic.”

She added that, while she was pleased that barristers would receive due compensation for their work under the new measures, “Nonetheless, the rates of pay must be revisited as part of the wider independent review, which we look forward to engaging with, to ensure the sustainability of this vital provision.”

Simon Davis, President of the Law Society, stated: “the criminal legal aid fee increases announced [today] are a welcome small step in the right direction after two-and-a-half decades without a rise in funding.”

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