Legal changes are ‘threat’ to justice system say solicitors

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Sheffield and District Law Society is calling on Government to rethink Legal Aid reforms.

The society fears changes could make it difficult for individuals accused of breaking the law to obtain justice – as well as force law firms out of business.

The Ministry of Justice has published a consultation on reforms that will no longer allow individuals facing criminal charges to appoint their own legal representation.

At the same time, the number of firms offering Legal Aid-funded advice on Criminal Law matters in South Yorkshire is likely to be reduced from more than 50 under the current regime to just eight.

The society believes that as many as 80 per cent of South Yorkshire’s Criminal Law specialists could be forced out of business as a direct result.

Firms fortunate enough to be appointed to the panel could face difficulty with the new price-based tendering system, with fees capped at 17.5 per cent less than the current rates.

Danny Simpson, head of Sheffield and District Law Society’s Criminal Law Panel, said: “Historically, many families and individuals have used the same firm for advice on a full range of legal matters because of the relationship they have built up over the years.

“Removing individual choice will potentially damage the client-solicitor relationship.

“These proposals really do spell the end for the local solicitor. More importantly, they will undermine the quality of representation in the courts.”