A South Yorkshire-born barrister and chairman of the Bar Council which represents barristers has spoken out against proposed cuts to legal aid fees for lawyers.
Nicholas Lavender QC, who was born in Royston, Barnsley, said the proposed cuts are a ‘real threat’ to the criminal justice system in England and Wales.
Mr Lavender said he fears that fee reductions will discourage lawyers from working in criminal courts and make the system ‘less effective’.
“The actual and proposed reductions in both the scope of legal aid and the rates paid for legal aid represent a real threat to our justice system,” said Mr Lavender.
“The fees paid to advocates for conducting criminal cases in the crown courts have been reduced by 27 per cent in the last six years.
“Yet we now face the prospect of still further cuts, including a 30 per cent reduction in the fees paid for the most difficult cases, which came into effect last month. And the reductions currently being implemented in fees in some civil cases are more than 50 per cent.
“If we are to continue to have an effective system for dealing with serious criminal cases, we cannot create such huge incentives for people to give up, or not to engage in the first place in, criminal advocacy.
“The result will be longer trials, and more successful appeals, adding to costs rather than saving money and making the system less effective either at convicting the guilty or ensuring that those wrongly accused go free.”