Urgent Information for Members further to Ballot
As you will be aware there have been a series of meetings across the country to discuss action against the 8.75% cut which is effective for all new criminal legal aid work commencing tomorrow. These took place in conjunction with the on line ballot.
There was a meeting of London practitioners last night at which over 100 practitioners and over 100 members of The Independent Bar attended. The meeting overwhelmingly supported the motion that solicitors cannot take further instructions on new starts after midnight tonight. To do so would place us firmly in breach of our professional duty. Many of us signed a pledge in October 2013 in which we declared just this. In January we face a further cut on litigator fees, in some cases more than 50%. This means that we will be having to make choice in many cases as to whether we visit clients in prison and make a loss, or make do with limited instructions and the consequences that follow.
We are opposed to Dual contracting, and seek to persuade the MOJ, as we have consistently done that the cuts which give rise to this program of forced consolidation is not necessary and dangerous for the fragile system within which we operate. Mr Gove cannot say on one hand that he wishes to move away from a two tier justice system whilst also implementing this programme.
At the meeting last night we received strong indications that some firms would withdraw their bids. We are interested to hear from firms who wish to take this step, in order to assist our research.
Firms individually decided that they would decline new instructions from midnight 1st July in respect of all legally aided matters save for discharging their contractual obligations as duty solicitors.
Whether a client is represented as duty solicitor or not, no legal aid certificates will be applied for.
Firms are entitled to take the view that whilst there are short term concerns over the vulnerable and those accused of serious offences, they cannot be represented to a professional standard under the new rates.
The duty solicitor will be available to assist these clients, during the time they are detained in the police station. For this to be effective, the duty solicitor or representative might want to cover the slot without relying on back up.
The view of firms at the meeting is that they will not be accepting back up calls during this period.
We understand that the Ministry of Justice may be preparing to brief journalists with regards to such cases where clients have been left without representation. If any of you have counter takes of clients that have suffered under the existing system please forward them through.
Most of the Big firms have agreed to support this action and a few that haven’t have agreed to a “no poaching “policy.
This really is the last opportunity attempt to protect what we have been fighting for over the past two years, please don’t be out off by the “what ifs”, which have allowed the MOJ to do whatever they want to us.
See documents below that may assist together with a letter to Mr Gove from LCCSA & CLSA.
1. Protocol for the action
2. Note to duty solicitors as to how they can help
3. Note to advocates to hand to others at court who may be unaware of what do are not acting
4. Leaflet to client explain the action
5. Statement from LCCSA
Please let other firms in your area know about this action, and if you can arrange meetings.
LCCSA is not seeking to encourage any breach of contract. You have each signed your contract with the LAA and it is your responsibility to comply with your obligations under the said contract and you must ensure that you do so notwithstanding whatever decision you have reached as an individual.
AS SOON AS WE START WORKING AT THE NEW RATES WE ARE ACCEPTING THE MOJs DECISION TO IGNORE OUR REPRESENTATIONS AND PRESS AHEAD WITH THE CUTS IN THE ABSENCE OF THE PROMISED REVIEW.