The justice secretary Chris Grayling is to meet criminal solicitors to hear concerns over the government’s proposed changes to criminal legal aid reforms, the Law Society announced today.
The meeting, secured by the Society, will take place next Tuesday at an undisclosed London venue.
It will be the fourth meeting on legal aid issues to take place with the Ministry of Justice since May last year.
Attendees will include representatives from the Law Society, local law societies, the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, black and minority ethnic lawyers’ groups, the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, and the Legal Aid Practitioners Group.
The Society said it secured the meeting as a result of its policy to engage with the ministry to try to secure long-term sustainability in the criminal legal aid sector.
The meeting will be held under the Chatham House rule, meaning that what is said can be reported without being attributed to named speakers.
It follows a series of ‘engagement sessions’ across the country, hosted by the Law Society to encourage the widest participation from the profession in the debate over the reforms and the way ahead.
The meeting comes as the profession continues to wait for the government’s response to its ‘Next Steps’ legal aid consultation. This was originally expected before Christmas, but is now expected to be released at the end of February.
Law Society president Nicholas Fluck said: ‘The Law Society has consistently opposed the proposed fee cuts. Our evidence demonstrates that the cuts pose a substantial risk to the sustainability of criminal defence providers. It is crucial that the lord chancellor continues to hear from frontline practitioners as they are at the heart of the criminal justice system.’
He added: ‘Our engagement programme with solicitors continues and future events are planned, including in Exeter and Cornwall. We want to hear the views of practitioners specialising in criminal legal aid.’
It is understood that the ministry has cancelled a meeting with the Bar Council, Criminal Bar Association and circuit leaders that had been scheduled to take place tomorrow.
Instead, the ministry said it will respond to the bar’s queries in writing.