The London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association recently conducted a survey of its members on possible actions due to the continuing issue of low pay, including taking a full hour for lunch and returning clients who had not been questioned by the end of a solicitor’s duty slot.
95 percent of the survey’s 140 respondents supported refusing to perform low-paying work in the magistrates’ court, such as cases of burglary and assault on emergency services.
The action is set to begin on 25th May 2022, with burglary charges as the priority.
The LCCSA, which has 870 members, claims that criminal cases in magistrates’ court could collapse due to defendants being unable to obtain legal representation. Crown Courts would also face disruption, as cases tried ‘either way’ such as harassment and stalking would not be able to progress.
Hesham Puri, head of the LCCSA, said defence lawyers “can no longer support a shattered judicial system” through low paid work, and that the “action will almost certainly result in much more chaos”.
In light of the survey results, the LCCSA issued a bulletin to its members explaining that only duty work is mandatory under the existing crime contract and that other types of work may be turned down because it isn’t “sufficiently compensated under the contract”.
The LCCSA has aligned its demands with the criminal bar, asking for a 25% fee increase rather than the previous 15%.
The Government consultation on criminal legal aid reform is due to close on 7 June.