Legal Aid

Hull firms revolt over fees

PUBLISHED October 27, 2006

Criminal law solicitors in Hull expressed defiance over fixed fees for police station work this week, as all seven providers in the area signed a letter stating that they will not be able to continue with the work under the planned rates.

The letter follows a huge response from criminal law solicitors to the Legal Services Commission?s (LSC) consultation on Lord Carter?s proposals, and the publication of a joint report by lawyers? organisations revealing the potential impact of the proposed rates.

The seven Hull firms claim that the fixed fee of ?165 plus VAT proposed for police station attendances is well below the average costs per case. Ian Phillip, a partner at Myer Wolff, said the rates would have solicitors ?running for the hills? on more complex cases.

A joint statement from the LSC and Department for Constitutional Affairs said that they would be ?carefully considering? the 2,700 Carter consultation responses before deciding how to proceed to the
next stage.

An economic analysis of the proposals released this month backs the assertion that some offences will be ?disproportionately affected?. In the Crown Court, dishonesty offences involving more than ?30,000 will see a 20% drop in rates, while rates for homicide and related grave offences will fall by around 18%.

The analysis, conducted by the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, the Criminal Law Solicitors Association and the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, also revealed a disproportionate impact on London firms ? and possibly those in other large cities ? which will lose 26% of their fee income for Crown Court work. Firms representing vulnerable clients will also be unfairly affected, the analysis suggests.

The report analysed a data sample of 263,000 claims, as well as the results of an on-line impact survey completed by more than 300 firms. It also found that Queen?s Counsel will be paid an average of 113% more for presenting a Crown Court case than solicitors will receive for preparing it.

In its response to the consultation, the Law Society warned that the proposals would reduce the number of experienced solicitors available for criminal work, adding that lawyers should not be expected to absorb the cost of inefficiencies in the police station and courts.

The Black Solicitors Network said it would fight ?tooth and nail? against the proposals, which it claims would have an unacceptable impact on ethnic minority communities. The Society of Asian Lawyers said the proposals would ?destroy diversity within the criminal justice system?.