Protest March Amid Criminal Justice Chaos Fears

Merseyside’s criminal justice system could be thrown into chaos as solicitors prepare to defy government reform of their pay scales.

Law firms across the region are refusing to sign a new contract which will mean a fixed hourly fee for lawyers representing defendants on legal aid.

That could mean a big shortage of solicitors available to take on new criminal cases if the dispute cannot be resolved by the New Year.

The knock on-effect is likely to be a serious clogging-up of prisons, police cells, magistrates courts and crown courts, as clients struggle to get legal support.

Lawyers from around 25 Mersey firms are to march in protest at the reforms tomorrow to coincide with the sign-up deadline. The contract will introduce a fixed hourly fee for solicitors attending cases in police stations, instead of the current flat rate which takes into account unsociable hours.

Criminal solicitor John Ballam, chairman of Liverpool Law Society’s criminal law committee, said colleagues feared many legal aid solicitors could risk going out of business.