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Solicitors’ fees in legal aid cases set to be slashed

Solicitors’ fees in legal aid cases will soon be cut as the Government presses ahead with a reform of the system.

The coalition Government planned to reduce fees for litigators in two stages, with an 8.75% cut in 2014 and an 8.75% cut this year, the BBC reports.

Legal aid minister, Shailesh Vara, said the latest cut will come into force in England and Wales on 1st July.

Inquiries had reassured the Government that  reforms so far have not had any substantial negative impact on the sustainability of the service.

The decision to shelve plans to cut advocacy fees for barristers will be offset by alternative savings in the criminal justice sector, Mr Vara said.

The minister also said plans to bring in new contracts for duty solicitors will go ahead.

In March, lawyers lost a court appeal against the plans to cut the number of duty solicitor contracts at magistrates’ courts and police stations in England and Wales from 1,600 to 527.

Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society which represents solicitors, said he was ‘deeply concerned’.

He added: “The administration of justice is a fundamental duty of Government and access to justice is an essential part of that responsibility.

“Criminal legal aid solicitors are critical for ensuring that anyone accused of wrongdoing has a fair trial and yet few young lawyers see a future in this work, which is of extreme concern.”

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, welcomed the decision to protect advocacy fees, but  had ‘grave concerns’ about solicitors’ fee cuts.

Mr Vara said: “The changes we are pressing ahead with are designed to ensure that we have a system of criminal legal aid that delivers value for money to taxpayers, that provides high quality legal advice to those that need it most, and that puts the profession on a sustainable footing for the long term.”

He said there would be a review of the cuts to fees in July, 2016.

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