I read with incredulity the quotations from Michael Gove in your news item ‘Clampdown on crime referral fees’.
He emphasises the importance of ‘a healthy independent bar’ while the action he is taking on fees directly undermines that.
He says work should go to the ‘advocate most qualified for the job, not to the highest bidder’. One might think that if the question of the bid is irrelevant, but quality is, then work should not go to the lowest bidder either.
He is going to deal with ‘those market failures which create incentives for the abuse of the system’. Does this mean he intends to remove fixed fees from the payment structure of legal aid?
Remuneration for the vast majority of criminal legal aid cases in the Crown court is dependent upon factors such as plea, amount of pages of evidence served and the charge. The question of how much work is required properly to prepare the defence case has no impact on the amount a solicitor or barrister is paid.
The current system does not create incentives for proper representation but for an abuse of the system.
Jeremy Yuille, solicitor, Reading