Three months after announcing that it was embarking on a wider review of criminal legal aid fees, the Ministry of Justice has today provided further details of the review's scope and remit, as well as who it is working with.
The ministry says it wants to reform the fee schemes so that they fairly reflect, and pay for, work done, support market sustainability, limit 'perverse' incentives, and ensure proportionate administrative burdens on everyone.
The review will be overseen by a cross-agency Criminal Legal Aid Review Programme Board, chaired by the ministry's director of access to justice. The board is being advised by a Defence Practitioner Advisory Panel comprising of representatives from 14 bodies, including the Law Society, Bar Council, Criminal Bar Association, Solicitors’ Association of Higher Court Advocates, Criminal Law Solicitors' Association, London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association, Legal Aid Practitioners Group, Young Legal Aid Lawyers and the Big Firms' Group.
The ministry says it also intends to engage with 'wider stakeholders', including relevant experts and user engagement groups, and will hold 'regional review' events.
The advisory panel's first meeting took place on Monday. In a letter seen by the Gazette, LCCSA president Jon Black told members that it was 'vital for everyone's livelihoods and our clients' ability to access justice that you take this opportunity to feed into this project'.
Questions, members are asked to think about, are: 'Do swings and roundabouts work? Are certain types of cases neglected under the current regime? How do we get experienced lawyers to deal with cases that deserve that level of expertise? How do we ensure there is a future-proof system that is attractive to junior lawyers? Should payment be made for reading unused material and, if so, to whom?'
Members are also asked to keep notes of cases 'that have been grossly and unfairly underpaid as we may at some point need to refer to specific examples'.
The final report, including recommendations, will not be ready until late 2020, although the ministry says it will share emerging findings throughout the process.