Detailed guide: Criminal legal aid review

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Detailed guide: Criminal legal aid review

The review

In December 2018, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) announced a comprehensive review of criminal legal aid fee schemes.

Having listened carefully to concerns raised by the criminal defence professions, and in light of the wider reforms that are already beginning to transform how our criminal justice system operates, we believe it is the right time to think more widely about the future of the criminal legal aid fee schemes.

The review will consider criminal legal aid throughout the life cycle of a criminal case, including:

  • pre-charge advice at the police station, advice and advocacy services in the Magistrates’ Court and Youth Court, and advice and advocacy for prisoners
  • advice and litigation services in the Crown Court through the Litigators’ Graduated Fee Scheme (LGFS)
  • advocacy services in the Crown Court through the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS)
  • litigation and advocacy services for very high cost Crown Court cases though the Very High Cost Case (VHCC) Scheme

The review will also consider wider changes to the justice, social, economic, business and technological landscape that are impacting on the criminal legal aid system – including, but not limited to, Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) reform, the Attorney General’s review of disclosure, and wider modernisation work being pursued by the Home Office and the police.

What we want to achieve

The review has 2 main outcomes.

(1) To reform the criminal legal aid fee schemes so that they:

  • fairly reflect, and pay for, work done
  • support the sustainability of the market, including recruitment, retention, and career progression within the professions and a diverse workforce
  • support just, efficient, and effective case progression, limit perverse incentives, and ensure value for money for the taxpayer
  • are consistent with and, where appropriate enable, wider reforms
  • are simple and place proportionate administrative burdens on providers, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), and other government departments and agencies
  • ensure cases are dealt with by practitioners with the right skills and experience

(2) To reform the wider criminal legal aid market to ensure that the provider market:

  • responds flexibly to changes in the wider system, pursues working practices and structures that drive efficient and effective case progression, and delivers value for money for the taxpayer
  • operates to ensure that legal aid services are delivered by practitioners with the right skills and experience
  • operates to ensure the right level of legal aid provision and to encourage a diverse workforce

While the review is wide-ranging, we are committed to delivering a final report, including any recommendations, towards the end of the summer 2020. We will also seek to share emerging findings with the professions throughout the course of the review.

Who we’re working with

The review is being overseen by a cross-agency Criminal Legal Aid Review Programme Board. The Board is Chaired by the Director of Access to Justice at MOJ, the Director of Access to Justice at MOJ. It comprises members from MOJ, LAA, HMCTS and other government departments and agencies.

This board is being advised by a Defence Practitioner Advisory Panel comprising representatives from across the barrister and solicitor professions. This includes representatives from the:

  • Bar Council
  • Bar Council Young Barristers’ Committee
  • Big Firms’ Group
  • Chartered Institute of Legal Executives
  • Bar Circuit Leaders
  • Criminal Bar Association
  • Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association
  • Law Society
  • Law Society Junior Lawyers Division
  • Legal Aid Practitioners Group
  • London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association
  • Public Defender Service
  • Solicitors’ Association of Higher Court Advocates
  • Young Legal Aid Lawyers

These bodies are working collaboratively with us to ensure practitioners’ views are carefully considered as part of the review.

We also intend to engage with wider stakeholders, including relevant experts and user engagement groups, and will be providing details of regional review events in due course.

As our review gathers pace, we want to continue the conversation with you. You can tell us what you think on CriminalLegalAidReview@justice.gov.uk.

 

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