Legal Aid

Solicitors strike over legal aid forms

PUBLISHED October 26, 2006

A group of solicitors went on strike today in protest at new legal aid forms that they claim are too complicated and are damaging people?s access to justice.

The 25 solicitors at Plymouth Magistrates Court claim the forms are now up to five times longer than before and difficult for clients, who may be illiterate, to understand.

The Legal Services Commission, which introduced the means test forms on October 2, said they were introduced to save money because previously, legal aid was available regardless of income.

The solicitors believe they are the first in the country to take direct action but they expect that other courts across the country including Southampton, Luton, Exeter and Torquay could face similar disruption in the next few days.

Bill Lahive, a solicitor at Walker Lahive in Plymouth, said reports that the strike was about money were not true. "This is not about money - we are talking about ordinary people here who will not have access to justice," he said.

Derek Hill, the Legal Service Commission?s Director of the Criminal Defence Service, said the changes could save around ?35 million a year and had been introduced to ensure the future of the legal aid system.

"There is no justification for solicitors to refuse to act for clients," he said.