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17 July 2013
That old adage that crime pays certainly doesn't lend itself into the world of a firm which conducts criminal legal aid. The recent musings regarding changes to criminal Legal Aid, and the potential for a 17.5% cut in fees following a competitive tender process, would come on top of more recent legal aid reductions which mean crime clearly wouldn't pay.
As a layman and with a business to develop and protect the proposed changes being mooted are almost unworkable unless you start paying people minimum wage, and banishing them from the office for all eternity to work at remote locations with only an Ipad, Iphone and the local miscreants for company.
The government has backed down I hear you shout, with client choice being at the forefront of this retreat. However far from a retreat this is merely a slight kink in the road with the 17.5% savings they want happening, we just have to wait and see how they package it. Don't get me wrong, client choice is vital and does give firms a chance to develop their business; however it doesn't in any way guarantee the number of cases you would need to sustain such a drastic cut in fees.
Alongside this is the propensity at the police station to let more of the blighters go, before they require any representation, meaning that case numbers are also reducing in our particular area. All this doesn't bode well and clearly at the moment the future isn't very bright for criminal legal aid firms of any size, although I can imagine that the boards of Tesco and Eddie Stobarts legal departments aren't losing too much sleep from all of this.
The waiting around for news of what the government are to propose next is akin to waiting at the gates of hell. The gates closed and in an orderly fashion criminal legal aid firms/departments wait in line with baited breath all knowing that what comes next won't be pleasant, but just how unpleasant will it be?