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Criminal Solicitors not attending court Friday 7th March

First in a rolling nationwide programme of training days to be held on Friday 7th March for Solicitors and Barristers practising Criminal Law in England and Wales.

This Friday marks the start of a rolling programme of training days taking place across England and Wales involving Criminal Law Solicitors and Barristers. The training days are being held as a result of the publication by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling on 27th February of his response to the second Consultation on Transforming Criminal Legal Aid.

What are the proposals in the consultation and why do they matter?

The consultation was the latest in a series of proposals from the government aimed at cutting the costs of legal aid in England and Wales. Under these proposals, the number of firms of solicitors eligible to provide round-the-clock advice and representation to people held by the Police will be cut by more than two-thirds.

This vital service, known as the Duty Solicitor Scheme was introduced 30 years ago in response to several high-profile miscarriages of justice and has been providing people who have just been arrested access to independent, high-quality legal advice ever since.

From 20th March this year, the Government is also making a cut of 8.75% in the amount it pays to Criminal Law Solicitors who represent people in Police custody and at court. There will also be a further cut to pay introduced in 2015.

The effects of these cuts will be to force many experienced Criminal Lawyers to cut the level of service they provide to those accused of criminal acts. The cuts will also harm efforts to recruit the next generation of Criminal Lawyers, as law students will be unable to afford to repay the student debts they have accumulated during their legal training.

Criminal Law Solicitors and Barristers, far from being the “fat cats” of the legal profession, provide an important service, one that is too often overlooked by the majority of the public until they find themselves in a situation where they are under investigation by the Police or facing criminal allegations. It is in those situations that free access to expert legal advice becomes a necessity, as your reputation and your liberty are at stake.

What will this mean for my criminal legal case?

Here at Canter Levin & Berg, our Criminal Law Solicitors have been hard at work to minimise the disruption to our clients that might be caused by the training day this Friday. As a firm, we are joining our colleagues across not just Merseyside, but the whole country, in not attending court as a protest against the cuts to legal aid proposed by the government.

Our solicitors have already been making arrangements where possible for cases that had been scheduled to be heard on Friday vacated until a later date. In situations where the court has declined our application for a case to be vacated, our solicitors will still attend in situations where the hearing involves a complex matter, or in cases involving vulnerable clients.

It is also worth noting that during Friday’s training day, there will still be a Duty Solicitor available for people to contact if they are taken into custody. However, it is likely that there will be a longer wait than usual before the Duty Solicitor is able to contact you or to attend in person if you are being held at a Police Station.

Who should I speak to to find out more?

As a client of Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors, you will have already been notified by the Criminal Law team well in advance of Friday’s training day to inform you of the arrangements that have been made to minimise any disruption to your case.

If you still have questions about what will happen on Friday or if there are any important developments in your case, please contact our Criminal Law Solicitors Richard Hughes and Pete Mitchell on 0151 239 1000.

By Richard Hughes