2 May 2022

Legal aid system in grave danger if no new money in budget : senior barrister & ex crown prosecutor

From Nine To Noon, 9:05 am on 2 May 2022
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A senior barrister and former crown prosecutor says unless this month's budget contains new funding for the legal aid system, it is is danger of collapse.

Hourly rates for legal aid work haven't changed since 2008 and are around half what a Crown Prosecutor or independent counsel receives. As a result there has been an exodus of lawyers willing and able to offer legal aid.

The Law Society commissioned an independent report by Colmar Brunton last year, which surveyed nearly 3000 lawyers on access to justice.

Three quarters of the legal aid lawyers who participated said they had to turn away people seeking legal assistance because they didn't have the time to take on the client, or because their firm had reached the maximum amount of legal aid clients it could afford.

A quarter of legal aid lawyers said they intend to stop in the coming year.

Tiana Epati is a barrister, former crown prosecutor and as immediate past president of the Law Society, commissioned the Colmar Brunton research.

She holds grave fears for the legal system if the budget later this month doesn't include a funding boost for legal aid.