Days after highlighting the critical situation that threatens the future of the criminal legal aid sector, a former judge leading an independent review on long-term sustainability has issued a call for evidence.
Sir Christopher Bellamy QC, chair of the Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid, is seeking evidence against nine major questions. For instance, practitioners are asked if the incentives created by the current fee schemes and payments encourage sustainability, quality and efficiency. Evidence is sought on the particular impact of criminal legal aid work, as currently funded, on young lawyers, particularly those from particular socio-economic backgrounds, or on the ethnic or gender diversity of the profession.
The review welcomes submissions on the profitability of firms doing criminal legal aid work and remuneration of criminal defence practitioners. It also asks about lessons learned from the pandemic, including any new working practices that lawyers want to retain.
The review is likely to make significant recommendations after Sir Christopher told a Westminster Commission on Legal Aid inquiry last week that criminal legal aid practitioners were caught in a ‘double pincer movement’ in terms of a real-terms reduction in money and reduction in work. 'These two circumstances have created a very serious situation,’ he said.
Sir Christopher said he hopes to report to government well before the end of the year. The call for evidence closes on 7 May.