In a ministerial statement made on 10 June it was announced that the second 8.75% cut to all criminal litigator fees will take affect from 1 July 2015. Dual contracting for duty solicitor work will go ahead. It was confirmed that the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) received sufficient bids to undertake a viable competition. 1,099 bids for duty work contracts have been received, from over 500 individual organisations.
'Before reaching this conclusion, we examined changes to our forecast legal aid expenditure, changes to the existing market, provider withdrawal rates and reasons, contract extension acceptance and early information from the duty provider contract tender. This reassured us that legal aid reforms so far have not had any substantial negative impact on the sustainability of the service.'
There will be no changes at present to Advocates Graduated Fee Scheme.
'We recognise that changes in the litigation market have the potential to affect the provision of advocacy, and agree that high quality advocacy also must be preserved and enhanced. We will be taking steps to work with the profession to explore measures to achieve this.'
'We are particularly keen to ensure we retain a vibrant independent Bar and protect the high standard of advocacy which is a hallmark of our justice system. Having listened carefully to the case put by the profession, we have decided not to reduce advocacy fees at this stage. Instead we want to work closely with the profession in order to explore alternative ways of securing savings through greater efficiencies in criminal proceedings. That will include implementing the findings of Sir Brian Leveson’s report, which contained wide-ranging recommendations to deliver more efficient criminal courts.'