Legal firm warns cuts could be ‘death knell’ for profession

John Storer at CDA, Boston.
John Storer at CDA, Boston.

Lawyers fear Government legal aid cuts could wipe out their firms and force innocent people to admit charges without trial – to save money.

They say plans mean only four companies in Lincolnshire will be awarded cut-price contracts from June next year and the legal roles could go to people who are not solicitors, including firms such as security company G4S and even transport giant Eddie Stobart.

Defendants may also be given a legal representative rather than have a choice of their lawyer.

John Storer of Boston-based Criminal Defence Associates said the proposals could sound the ‘death knell’ for the professional staff involved.

He said: “They have put forward this plan for price competitive tendering which completely abolishes a person’s right to choose their own lawyer.

“A person who can not afford their own lawyer will have no choice in who represents them.”

He said the consultation stated lawyers were providing a service ‘which was higher quality than is expected of them’. It is feared that since the four companies chosen will be paid the same for a guilty plea case as a three or four day trial, defendants could ultimately end up just pleading guilty.

Mr Storer added: “Would a company be happy to do a three, or four, day trial when, if they can convince the defendant to plead guilty, they can get the same amount for less time?”

Lawyers all over Lincolnshire have met to oppose the consultations, including fellow solicitors Mike Alexander and Neil Sands, who have both written to MPs .

Mr Alexander said: “Government statistics state there are 1,600 firms nationally and they expect that to fall to 400 but the reality is they’re going to reduce by more than that.”

He said there would also be a lack of experienced solicitors. “Why would a firm that’s aim is to make money employ a solicitor with experience? They will employ someone just off the block,” he said.

“If money is the only consideration, then quality will inevitably reduce.”