Practitioner groups will meet Ministry of Justice officials on Monday for more talks about criminal legal aid reforms that continue to be subject to a nationwide boycott of new work.
However, justice secretary Michael Gove will not be present at the meeting with the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association and Big Firms Group. A representative of the Criminal Bar Association will attend as an observer.
The CLSA, LCCSA and BFG met Gove last Thursday for what they described to the Gazette afterwards as a ‘potentially constructive’ meeting.
LCCSA president Jonathan Black and CLSA vice-chair Robin Murray said Gove ‘will continue to engage and consider any ideas as to budgetary savings, detailed proposals for viable alternatives to [two-tier contracts] and simultaneously [the MoJ will] invite suggestions for improving the two-tier details’. Fee cuts were ‘the subject of ongoing discussions’.
Earlier today Franklin Sinclair, senior partner at Tuckers, a key member of the BFG, told BBC Radio 5 Live that cuts to legal aid rates meant solicitors would ‘not be able to do a decent job for our clients’.
He added: ‘We all have a passion to do the job we do. But we have to be paid a basic, reasonable rate.
‘It’s hard to get young people into this profession anymore. They’re becoming lawyers but they want to become commercial lawyers because [the pay is three times more] and they do not want to have to go out at night [to the police station].’
Meanwhile, the Legal Aid Agency said it is looking to fix problems with the Duty Solicitor Call Centre website, which has left solicitors unable to access it since the weekend.
The DSCC provides 24-hour access to criminal legal advice for people detained by or scheduled to be interviewed by the police.
A spokesperson for the LAA said: ‘DSCC deployment of duty solicitors is carried out by telephone, so allocation of new work is not affected by problems with the website, which is used for administrative matters such as viewing upcoming rota periods.
‘While the website is down, these matters can be dealt with by telephone. The service provider is working to fix the issue as soon as possible.’