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The Law society Gazette report that the timetable for the government’s major review of the civil legal aid system will not be brought forward.


LAPG co-chairs Nicola Mackintosh and Jenny Beck said: ‘Civil legal aid fees have not increased in 30 years, and indeed have been cut in this time. Year on year, legal aid lawyers are expected to deliver their expert services to vulnerable clients on fees that continuously fall due to inflation. Many have simply given up. Those who remain are exhausted, cannot recruit new staff and struggle to retain their existing staff. Current providers are so committed to the principle of access to justice that they find ways to subsidise loss-making legal aid work and they carry out work for free to provide the services their clients need.


‘The action needed to ensure that the civil legal aid scheme is effective and accessible to those who need it is clear and indisputable. There are no further efficiencies to be made to a service that has been cut to the bone over three decades.’


In a statement today, The Law Society of England and Wales has urged the Lord Chancellor to either rethink his decision not to increase criminal defence solicitors’ legal aid rates by the recommended bare minimum or face a judicial review.


A pre-action letter has been sent to UK government challenging its decision-making as unlawful and irrational.


“We argue the Lord Chancellor’s decision not to remunerate solicitors by the bare minimum 15%, which the independent review said was needed immediately over a year ago to prevent the collapse of the criminal defence sector, is unlawful, as is the decision not to take action to address the risk of local market failure,” said Law Society President Lubna Shuja.


“We are seeking a commitment by the government to withdraw both decisions and reconsider them within a mutually agreed timetable. If not, we will issue a judicial review seeking an order to quash them.”


“We argue both decisions are irrational and inconsistent with the constitutional right of access to justice,” added Lubna Shuja.


“Lord Bellamy’s report rightly focused on the resilience and sustainability of the crisis-hit criminal justice system. Criminal defence solicitors provide an essential service within that system but they simply won’t be there if the profession is not economically viable – and the government’s decisions mean it will not be.


“The huge court backlogs, the crumbling court infrastructure, the lack of judges and lawyers, duty schemes on the brink – all paint a clear picture of a criminal justice system in crisis. A system that is evidently collapsing due to inadequate levels of government investment.


“The government is choosing to ignore the economic advice and analysis which Lord Bellamy’s review team painstakingly produced, using data the government itself supplied. Instead, the government is implementing policies that run against the rationality of the review it commissioned and accepted.


“This irrational policy-making will have wide consequences for the small businesses operating in the criminal defence sector, the criminal justice system as a whole and thousands of victims and defendants seeking justice.


“What is so frustrating is that a rational policy path was identified in Lord Bellamy’s comprehensive review and largely accepted, including 15% for barristers, but then the key recommendation affecting solicitors –who were viewed as being in the most ‘parlous state’ – was rejected.


“The Lord Chancellor failed to provide any reasons for ignoring that key recommendation even though there was a legitimate expectation that such reasons would be given. Without reasons, we can only conclude that decision is irrational.


“We have proposed alternative dispute resolution of the proposed litigation be attempted with independent mediation by an appropriately experienced senior lawyer or former judge,” concluded Lubna Shuja.

We are delighted to be ranked Band 1 in Chambers 2023 rankings for Mental Health - Patients, which were released today.


What the team is known for

Mackintosh Law has a strong stable of mental health lawyers. The team acts on behalf of individuals who lack capacity, including those who suffer from severe mental disorders and learning difficulties. The firm is deeply familiar with complex issues in respect of the interface between the Mental Health Act and the Mental Capacity Act, as well as deprivation of liberty cases. The team is also experienced in Court of Protection proceedings.


Strengths

"Their instructions are always incredibly detailed and their understanding of the issues is quite exceptional. The cases they take on are incredibly complex, and often involve serious issues of human rights and deprivation of liberty."


"They are always very prompt when answering questions."


Notable practitioners

Zena Soormally is an experienced practitioner who specialises in Court of Protection cases and supporting clients who lack capacity. She has particular experience handling deprivation of liberty cases." Zena's totally meticulous and detail-oriented, while working in a collegiate way to try to find solutions in challenging cases."


Nicola Mackintosh possesses significant expertise in mental health and capacity law, including deprivation of liberty cases. She frequently represents vulnerable clients in the Court of Protection.

"Nicola is absolutely fantastic. She's totally client-focused, and her driving focus has always been the concerns of vulnerable clients. She has such passion and drive."


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