The Westminster Commission Inquiry into the Sustainability of Legal Aid_1st Session: Criminal Legal Aid - Shared screen with speaker view
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Hello All attendees. Thank you so much for joining us. We are trying to build up a picture of where everyone is located. Can you all please put your current location here in the chat.
Hello everyone, I am located in London, Stratford here.
London criminal defence solicitor
Good morning everyone, I’m a Law Student in London
Hello all, I am in based in London. I am a Policy Analyst for the Bar Council.
Hi, Fionnuala Ratcliffe, Researcher at Transform Justice here. Currently in Nottingham
Good morning everyone, I am a BTC student located in Leeds
Hello, Richard Miller, Head of Justice at the Law Society.
Morning everyone, I’m an undergraduate student in Bristol.
Good Morning, I work in a Pro Bono Centre in London.
Hello everyone, I am a LPC student located in London
Hello everyone, attending as an LPC student from London, Holborn.
Hello, I am an LPC student in Leeds
hi, I'm a PGDL student from London
Finneas Stapleton English
Hello all, I'm a PGDL student located in Cambridge
I am a LPC student in London.
Good morning, I'm based in the North West and work as a Policy Advisor for the government
Uzoamaka P Ojinnaka
Good morning everyone, I'm Placida Ojinnaka, I'm a non-practising solicitor but currently a Council Member at the Law Society
Simon Mullings, Housing Caseworker Edwards Duthie Shamash solicitors, working at home in Forest Gate East London.
Good Morning, I’m an LLM Student at University of Birmingham
Alex Chapman, Janes Solicitors, London
Elizabeth BPP Walker
Good Morning, I am Elizabeth Walker and I am a BTC student at BPP in Manchester and volunteer with their Pro Bono Centre
Morning All, I'm from the CPS (London)
Morning, Mary Dobson, Pro Bono Week UK / National Pro Bono Centre lead, London
Morning, James Stott here, an Analyst at Crest Advisory - a crime and justice consultancy
Thank you to all of you who have already added your name and location. It's been incredible to see so many regions represented. Could I ask that you make it public to panelists and attendees please?
I’m a PGDL student in London
Morning, I’m an LPC graduate based in Birmingham
Hi all, I’m in Brighton. Barrister and academic with an obsession with legal aid.
Stratford Criminal Defence Trainee Solicitor
Good morning all, I am a Bar Course student and pro bono volunteer (London)
Hello all BTC student and volunteer with the APPG, joining from North London. Taking some hefty minutes already
Good morning all, Raymond Shaw, Shaw Graham Kersh
Morning - I am law student at BPP and am dialling in from home in London
Good morning all - please remember to use @APPGLegalAid and #WeAreLegalAid when tweeting about this session!
Thank you again everyone in attendance for joining us for this critical evidence session. You are all part of the legal aid community and we appreciate your support as we press for a fair, accessible and sustainable legal aid system. As part of our (never-ending!) campaign we need more awareness, more engagement, and a greater public focus on legal aid and the critical role it plays in the justice system and for society in general. Please help us build that community by using the hashtag #WeAreLegalAid on social media.
The problem with RUI is that it is impossible to say Parliament intended it via the Policing and Crime Act 2017 - it simply was not debated whatsoever. So now we have a new legal outcome with no end date in sight, compounded by lack of payment for pre-charge engagement. CLAR was meant to accelerate that payment scheme, but we needed the AG to recommend it as a concept first, before a payment scheme was attached to it.
I was always told to stay well away from crime… couldn’t help myself tho. Loving it now but it is true the pay isn’t great and the future is uncertain
All that said, James has nailed it in terms of new entrants and trying to build a client base amid the RUI delay and the court backlog delay. We absolutely need payment to cover the legal limbo that is RUI. The main issue as with everything to do with criminal legal aid is the rate of remuneration. Until that is addressed, nothing will change. We need an Independent Pay Review Board….ASAP…..urgently.
Jack Simson Caird
Jack Simson Caird - Assistant Counsel for the Justice Committee. Please submit evidence by 2 November 2020: https://committees.parliament.uk/call-for-evidence/235/the-future-of-legal-aid/
we don't need RUI. Go back to bail. Legislate time limits with checks by senior officers and finally court if needed after say 6 months
fund legal aid lawyers for hearings for bail consideration at court
Dates for your diaries:
Family Legal Aid oral evidence session 19 November 2020
Civil Legal Aid oral evidence session 17 December 2020
Jan-Mar sees oral evidence sessions on The Publicly-Funded Bar (likely 28 Jan 2021); Access to Justice (likely 18 Feb 2021); Experiences of Junior Lawyers: Diversity, Inclusivity & Routes into the Profession (likely 25 Mar 2021).
And look out for the launch of the Commission's wide-ranging sustainability survey of practitioners and those considering working in legal aid - follow @APPGLegalAid for latest news
My experience is that this culling of firms has been an unsaid desire of government/LA for over a decade it feels like a race to the bottom. Like the care home situation. the issue as we have seen with care homes is that people die. in this job people lose years of their lives.
Some really excellent questions and comments in the chat. We've made a record of them and they will feed into the Inquiry. Can I just ask that comments are made to panelists and attendees?
Virtual hearings are not suitable for all defendants or witnesses and this isn't the answer to either the backlog or the fact that the system is collapsing. It's vital to understand that the CJS encompasses probation, prison and police so virtual technology has to be spread out to these areas in order for a joined up approach, when it's used. Sols are unable to have client meetings with prisoners for months at the moment because there is no tech inside prison and Covid restrictions on visits.
it ws calculated on average bands BUT 1/3 reduction in that average
As Rakesh says , firms are no longer feeling reluctant to turn away certain types of cases /clients which may be labour intensive and providing a low reward. A crown court case where the charges are dropped after all the work is conducted can bill around £200 - £300 which does not cover the cost of all the preparation and client care . Defendants in these cases are increasingly unrepresented
Are there many mature students coming into the profession?
I guess I qualify as mature student - 38y/o career changer
I am 47! Studying the BTC
But I was definitely the oldest by far in both my BPTC and LPC cohort - I think there were 2 others on my year
I was called to the bar in 2017 age 45. in order to do so I paid approximately 100k - in order to receive a salary as a pupil of £20k. I was only able to do it because of privilege.
12k per anum
The Law Society's research is here: https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/research/legal-aid-means-test-report
Considering the average income in the UK sits somewhere around £35,000 p/a (and that isn't exactly "wealthy"), having a 12k p/a limit seems extraordinarily discriminatory.
For context, the average UK salary p/a in 2010 when the means test was set, was £25,800. About 10k less than today. So in 2010, the means test was about half the average income, and now it is about a third.
Rebecca Helm (Exeter) has conducted a very interesting analysis of the means test and what this means for people with caring responsibilities etc. I'm not sure whether she has published it yet
If you want to compare expenditure, I'd argue you should compare to elsewhere in the commonwealth and the US on a state level. Like for like systems. But not sure how you'd compare on number of prosecutions, likely extreme variance across the commonwealth?
Exactly - so many variants. If it was found that UK spending is more generous, we'd still have a collapsing CJS
Will contracts on PPE become one of those
There is a need to reverse the 'punitive turn', i.e. fewer offences (3600 approx. introduced during New Labour) and fewer prosecutions; greater focus on ensuring that people do not enter the CJS and instead providing proper support for those who must be prosecuted. Other jurisdictions in Europe are inherently less punitive (as are some outside of Europe). I think there is also a need to dispel the notion of 'fat cat lawyers' (discussed before) and the notion that suspects/defendants 'get off on technicalities' or are people who are undeserving of support. Some elements of the media do not help here *and* this is a discourse pursued by some politicians. Wholesale reform of the CJS is required.
Harley, Georgia; Capita, Irina; Markovic, Milos; Panter, Elaine Rene Elizabeth; Scott-Moncrieff, Lucy, A Tool for Justice : The Cost Benefit Analysis of Legal Aid (Washington, D.C, World Bank Group, 20 September 2019)
Need massive multi-variate analysis, but those are expensive to run in and of themselves haha
It is difficult with government rhetoric...
In the States you have a right to an Attorney and a Public Defender Service. Perhaps a change of approach is required.
Sometimes it seems like Government puts more funding into fixing sprained ankles with the NHS than it does into preserving a fair and impartial justice system handling the liberty of its citizenry.
There are lots of problems with the US model. It is, to my knowledge, incredibly underfunded.
thank you everyone!
Thanks all! Have a great day.
This has been an excellent session. Thank you to the chairs and the panellists!
Thank you, great discussion. Sakina Sheikh
This has been great to attend. Thank you.