Criminal law solicitors this week criticised a ?75 flat fee to cover hearings where a client?s means test application has not yet been processed as ?too low?.

The Legal Services Commission put the ?early cover? fee proposal out to consultation last week.

The fee will cover a potential gap in funding when means testing is introduced in magistrates? courts in October. It will apply where a hearing is due, but the client?s means-tested application has been lodged but not processed by the morning of the trial.

Lawyers will be paid a ?75 fee for the first hearing, provided it ?advances the case? and ?any adjournment is justified?. The eventual funding decision must satisfy the merits test.

Rob Brown, executive officer at the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, said: ?It is enlightened of the commission to make some provision so that clients can be represented by their own solicitor. But ?75 is likely to be too low, particularly if it is the same fee in London.?

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