A vile conspiracy – criminal legal aid takes another hit

“A vile conspiracy” is the only way to describe the “reform” that is proposed to funding for murder cases contained in the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill.

The impact which the proposed reduction will have on the resource available to the defendant is not explained in the Consultation Paper.

Taking a typical matter, with, say 2000 pages of prosecution material and a 6 week trial the fee for the defence solicitor will drop from £41,371.74   to £24,443.34.  If there is less prosecution material, with, say 500 pages of prosecution material and a 15 day trial, the present fee allowed is £21,268.98 .  This will drop under the proposal to £8,185.49, a reduction in the fee of over 60%.

As to how this could impact in practice, the police service of Derbyshire publishes figures in response to public requests for information.  One 2009 response showed a murder investigation into the death of Kadeem Blackwood costing £600,000.  Press reports state his trial lasted three weeks.

Assuming that the police served and relied on 500 pages of paper, a single solicitor will in future have to scrutinise the product of a £600,000 enquiry, set a strategy, instruct investigators and experts, and instruct counsel, for a sum which is insufficient to pay for more than 4 or 5 weeks work.

This contrasts with the apparent expenditure of approximately 7 man years per murder by the Metropolitan Police.

If there have to be defence legal aid cuts, why concentrate them on murders?  That is where the worst miscarriage of justices occur, and arguably where the state has most to hide.