Report into future of criminal justice system yields worrying findings

The Law Society has published a damning report into the future of the criminal justice system, which worryingly suggests that there will not be enough solicitors to provide criminal defence services in just five or 10 years’ time.

“Criminal duty solicitors are part of an increasingly ageing profession, and Government cuts mean there are not enough young lawyers entering the field of criminal defence work,” said Law Society president, Joe Egan.

The Society is calling for criminal legal aid fees to rise with inflation.

Its research shows that in around a decade’s time, certain regions throughout the country will not have enough practising solicitors to support the criminal defence system.

It shows that in Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, West Wales and Mid Wales, more than 60 per cent of criminal law solicitors are aged over 50-years-old.

Likewise, in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cornwall and Worcestershire, there are no criminal law solicitors under the age of 35.

The report comes shortly after criminal barristers across the UK launched strike action over a disagreement regarding recent cuts to legal aid.

“Criminal justice is at the heart of a democratic society and duty solicitors ensure a fundamental part of the justice system is upheld,” Joe Egan said.

“20 years without any increases in fees, and a series of drastic cuts have pushed the criminal justice system to the point where lawyers can no longer see a viable career doing this work.

“Access to independent, expert legal advice is an important right which ensures fair access to justice. If a suspect cannot access free advice and representation, a fair trial would be jeopardised, and cases would collapse.

“The Law Society is calling on the Government to take action and conduct an economic review of the long-term viability of the criminal legal aid system and to guarantee that criminal legal aid fees will rise with inflation.”

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