Criminal Justice: The Emerging Crisis

What is going on here?

There is a huge shortage forecasted in the numbers of future criminal duty solicitors.

 

What does this mean?

Data unveiled by the the Law Society, which represents solicitors across England and Wales, shows that there is a decrease in the number of criminal lawyers in the country. This could leave many individuals unable to exercise their right to a solicitor and free advice.

 

What’s the big picture effect?

Criminal duty solicitors play a hugely significant role in the justice system of this country. When someone is detained by the police, they have a right to a criminal duty solicitor completely free of charge.

The Law Society (they represent solicitors in England & Wales) has said that there are too few criminal duty lawyers available. The data highlights that in as little as 5 to 10 years’ time, there may not be enough lawyers. As a result of this, vulnerable people who find themselves in police custody won’t be able to access their right to legal representation and advice.

The data shows that the average age of criminal lawyers is on the rise. In Dorset, Somerset and West Wales, over 60 per cent of the criminal solicitors are aged over 50. This means that as older, experienced lawyers retire, the work will be passed to their underprepared counterparts. This could risk the level of advice received by those in a vulnerable position. 

One likely reason for these shortages is because criminal defence solicitors have received no fee increase since 1998. On top of this, the government announced new reductions on April 1 to the money that barristers are paid for these cases. Since then, the Criminal Bar Association (a group which represents the views criminal barristers) arranged for barristers to strike in protest to the changes. After a lot of objection, the government offered a £15m fees boost, which the Criminal Bar Association accepted.

It’s clear why young lawyers may not see a future for themselves in criminal law right now. The government must focus on improving the working conditions: It would benefit both the lawyers and society as a whole

 

Article written by Idin S.

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