Solicitors are operating like travelling salesmen

John Halewood Dodd.
John Halewood Dodd.

The first batch of cuts to criminal legal aid fees came into force today, March 20, which means that cases commenced after today will be paid at 8.75 per cent less than previous rates.

This applies to both police station and court representation.

I have previously explained that these cuts 
come on the back of criminal legal aid rates that have not been increased for over 15 years.

Given that our income is set to decrease dramatically we are forced to travel to where the work is, and are 
attending courts much further afield.

It used to be relatively 
rare to venture outside Lancaster, but it is now commonplace for us to travel to 
where clients request our services.

We are at Carlisle almost daily, and have appeared at Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham, London and Dover within the last year.

We do so for established clients, but it appears to me that this type of solicitor, operating almost like a travelling salesman, is what the Government wants.

Lancaster, if the court remains open, will always be our base, but if current proposals are implemented we will be forced to bid for a contract to provide cover for every police station and court in Lancashire.

The logistics of providing such a service are mind-boggling.

There are seven police stations and 10 courts, so to cover them all would theoretically mean that we had 17 
solicitors available at any one time.

That does not include 
the additional personnel required to deal with cases outside of Lancashire and 
our own cases here at Lancaster.

To be in a position to provide cover would require at least 20 solicitors which in these times of cutbacks is beyond all but the very largest of firms.

Just for the record we will make a go of it but I foresee many headaches in the future if this system, as seems likely, is imposed upon us.

The local chemist is the only person to benefit from 
all of this with a massive increase in the sales of paracetamol.

At least someone will be happy.