Criminal Legal Aid – House of Commons Justice Committee Report

July 26, 2018

The House of Commons Justice Select Committee has today published its report on the current state of criminal legal aid in England and Wales.

MPs said there was “compelling evidence” of the “fragility” of the criminal Bar and criminal defence solicitors’ firms – a risk that “can no longer be ignored”.

This report considers recent changes to criminal legal aid-in particular, the Litigators’ Graduated Fee Scheme (LGFS) and the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS) that apply to Crown Court cases; expenditure on criminal legal aid generally; and declining expenditure on the criminal justice system as a whole. It also considers the absence of legal aid for defence lawyers to review unused prosecution material.

The House of Commons Justice Select committee has called for the government to commission an independent review – similar to a review conducted in Scotland – with the aim of devising a sustainable scheme. The review should begin no later than March 2019 and be completed within a year.

The government is also urged to conduct an urgent cross-departmental review of funding for all elements of the criminal justice system, in time to influence next year’s 2019 spending review.

Conservative MP Bob Neill, committee chair, said: “In criminal cases, there is a common law right to legal advice, and a right to legal representation under the European Convention on Human Rights. There is compelling evidence of the fragility of the criminal bar and criminal defence solicitors’ firms, which places these rights at risk – a risk which can no longer be ignored.”

To read a full copy of the report please click here.