No-one expected it to be good
news. Even so, the preliminary findings of the Bar Council’s survey
impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) make
for demoralising reading.
65% of family law barristers said
they undertake less legal aid work since April last year, with only 17% stating
that the implementation of the Act had not affected their practice. 69%
reported a reduction in their fee income. The number of family practitioners
attesting to an increase in litigants in person exceeded even gloomy pre-LASPO
predictions at 88%, and 80% of responses indicated an increase of delay in the
The Child Arrangements Programme
envisages a more ‘inquisitorial’ court process functioning effectively in the
post LASPO environment, and the Money Arrangements Programme
may well follow
suit. However, the result may in fact be a costly fudge of inquisitorial and
adversarial systems: judges lengthily discharging their newly-expanded duties
with two litigants in person, while represented parties wait expensively
For those still radical enough to
suspect that wider legal representation could actually ease the strains on the
MOJ budget, here are five suggestions gleaned from the Bar Council’s
presentation of their preliminary findings on 12 July. All wording and
extrapolation is the author’s own, and does not necessarily represent any
(1) Share post-LASPO experiences
While the ‘quantitative’ element of the survey has now
concluded, the project is still keen to hear more ‘qualitative’ accounts of the
experiences of legal aid barristers since the implementation of LASPO.
For example, while the majority of respondents to the April
2014 survey said they had no immediate intention of leaving the Bar, many
commented that they were ‘actively considering’ whether they have a long-term future
in the profession. These statements give some weight to the argument that there
is a real threat to the long-term future of the legal aid Bar.
The final report, with a full analysis of the responses to
the April survey, will be published in September. However, further
contributions could add considerable value, particularly as regards volume of
work, level of fee income and the number of litigants in person encountered.
Anyone willing to contribute can contact the project at: Remuneration@BarCouncil.org.uk
(2) Calculate the net cost of legal aid
The claim that we have the most expensive legal system in Europe has already been countered within the mainstream
media. It was indicated at the presentation that the Office for National
Statistics will conduct an independent calculation of the cost of the civil
legal aid system.
This should, for example, exclude VAT, the inclusion of
which has (it was suggested) misleadingly inflated government figures. It was
also argued that the money recouped by the Legal Aid Agency via the statutory
charge has not been taken into account hitherto and should be.
Another suggestion mooted was that individual counsel could
consent to the disclosure of their anonymised income data from the LAA, giving
an objective picture of their year-on-year remuneration from legal aid work.
Anyone who supports this idea could contact the Bar Council on the address