England: Government defeated by Law Society over legal aid cuts in document-heavy cases

The Law Society of England and Wales has succeeded in overturning cuts to legal aid payments for document-heavy Crown Court cases.

In a strongly-worded judgmentLord Justice Leggatt and Mrs Justice Carr DBE quashed changes to the Litigators Graduated Fee Scheme (LGFS) introduced in December 2017.

The key change was a 40 per cent cut to the maximum number of pages of prosecution evidence (PPE) that count for payment of criminal defence solicitors.

The Law Society said the changes led to lawyers earning up to 37 per cent less for some large cases, with “a huge amount of work on the most complex Crown Court cases” going unpaid.

The High Court in London criticised the UK government for failing to consult on the changes in an “open and transparent” way.

The Ministry of Justice’s statistical analysis underpinning the decision was only disclosed during the course of the litigation.

Lord Justice Leggatt and Mrs Justice Carr concluded that the MoJ’s methodology was “a flawed analysis on which no reasonable authority would have relied”.

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: “In the light of this ruling, we would urge the government to restart discussions to try to formulate a revised approach to the LGFS that will remunerate lawyers fairly for the work they have to do. We as the Law Society stand ready to help the government to this.

“We recently published new data showing that in 5 to 10 years’ time there could be insufficient criminal duty solicitors in many regions across England and Wales, leaving individuals in need of legal advice unable to access justice. These concerning statistics underline the need for reasonable payment for this challenging work.

“We are now considering the implications of the ruling for our members, and in the first instance we recommend that practitioners who have made relevant claims under the 2017 Regulations immediately apply for redetermination.”