The Ministry of Justice has announced a consultation on funding cuts for police station and Crown court work aimed at ‘rebalancing’ the £2bn legal aid budget in favour of civil help. The reforms outlined in the consultation paper include reducing the fees paid for police station work in what the MoJ calls the ‘most expensive and oversubscribed’ areas of the country. It says costs in this area have been driven up by an ‘over use’ of duty solicitor schemes in some parts of the country, particularly where there are ‘too many firms competing for business’. The MoJ proposes cutting the fee rates for barristers in Crown court cases to bring them more into line with prosecution fees. On average barristers acting for the prosecution receive 23% less pay than those acting for the defence, it says, which could ‘create an incentive for barristers to favour defence work’. The paper suggests combining all committal work done by litigators into one fixed fee paid out of the Litigator Graduated Fee Scheme, rather than the current scheme which pays the litigator one fee to prepare the committal hearing, and a separate fee for consideration of the committal bundle. The MoJ says payments for criminal file reviews will end, to match the fee structure in civil cases. In addition, the MoJ has asked the Legal Services Commission to consider standardising payments made to experts in both criminal and civil cases. The LSC has also been asked to find an additional 5% saving from its administrative budget this year, and 10% next year, on top of the 30% cuts they have already been asked to make over the next five years. Legal aid minister Lord Bach said: ‘The UK has one of the best-funded legal aid systems in the world and it is a vital service for many people, particularly during the current economic downturn.’ ‘More and more homeowners, employees and those facing financial hardship, are vulnerable to civil law problems at this time. We need to do all we can to ensure that legal aid is prioritised effectively so that more people are able to access it to and resolve their legal problems.’ He added: ‘Legal aid practitioners provide a fantastic service and should be paid accordingly; and that means rebalancing some fee structures so that there is greater fairness across the board.’ ‘Today’s consultation paper sets out proposals to make better use of the legal aid budget and ensure access for as many people as possible.’ Law Society chief executive Des Hudson said: ‘Solicitors don’t create the demand for advice in police stations; they simply respond to requests from people who’ve been arrested. How can the government imply that the profession can somehow alter that – solicitors have no control over how many people are arrested. ‘Having access to legal advice in a police station is central to the working of our criminal justice system. It can result in early guilty pleas and can also ensure that innocent people are not prosecuted. It avoids the miscarriages of justice that were seen in the 1970s. Government should be investing in this to achieve future savings. Arbitrarily cutting the fees that are paid will reduce access to this vital service for the people who need it most.’ He added that it would be not just barristers, but also solicitor-advocates who would be affected by the decision to cut the rate of pay in Crown court cases. Hudson said: ‘For the criminal law solicitors whose businesses and livelihood are to be the subject of a best value tendering experiment in Bristol and Manchester this is deeply worrying. While they bid for work the Ministry of Justice introduces a flat rate countrywide fee. This consultation lacks thought for the long-term future of access to justice. ‘We are currently compiling a review into legal aid which we hope will be the base for the future of legal aid. We recognise that there is not a bottomless pit of money for legal services, but government needs to work with the professions to provide long-term solutions. We will be looking into these proposals in more detail and feeding back to the profession as soon as possible, but in the meantime we will be lobbying the government to delay implementation of the BVT experiments in Manchester and Bristol.’ The consultation will run until 12 November. It can be found at: www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/docs/legal-aid-funding-reforms.pdf.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 BERLIN – Yasuko Hashimoto outclassed the field to win the Berlin Marathon for her first career victory on Sunday, giving Japan the women’s title in the annual race for the fourth straight year.Hashimoto clocked 2 hours, 26 minutes, 32 seconds while Emily Kimuria of Kenya followed in second in 2:28:18 and Ornella Ferrara of Italy third in 2:28:28. GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES In the men’s race, 34-year-old Kenyan Paul Tergat set a new world record with a time of 2:04:55.Hashimoto broke away from the pack around the 34-km mark and never looked back on her way to claiming the title, following in the footsteps of compatriot Naoko Takahashi, who won the past two Berlin meets and a set a world record here in 2001. Kazumi Matsuo won the 2000 Berlin Marathon as the first Japanese ever to win the meet.“I’m glad to have been able to run here, and even happier to have won. I hope this Berlin Marathon victory helps me in the competition for an Olympic berth,” said Hashimoto.In the men’s action, Tergat and Sammy Korir set the pace from the outset en route to breaking the 2:05:00 barrier for the first time in the history of the sport. Korir finished second in 2:04:56 and Titus Munji third in 2:06:15 to complete a Kenyan podium sweep.Tergat rewrote by 43 seconds the previous mark of 2:05:38 set by American Khalid Khannouchi at the London Marathon in April 2002. Kazuhiro Matsuda, who finished sixth with a time of 2:09:49, was the top finisher among Japanese runners in the men’s race.
Former Super Eagles’ winger Victor Moses will have to play behind closed doors as Inter Milan faces Ludogrets in a Europa League round of 32 return fixture.UEFA announced the match will be played behind closed doors due to the outbreak of coronavirus in Italy.Inter Milan’s Serie A outing against Sampdoria was called off on Sunday after two deaths resulting from the virus were confirmed in the northern regions of Italy.Coronavirus Closes In On EPL As Italian Serie A Takes First HitAs at Tuesday morning, over 228 people resident in Italy have contacted the virus with the death toll increasing to six, according to the BBC.Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had announced late on Saturday evening that all sporting events in two northern regions would be suspended on Sunday including four Serie A matches.“Now more than ever we have a duty to be prudent and responsible,” Minister for Sport Vincenzo Spadafora said on Facebook.“It is necessary to act seriously and determinedly, while maintaining calm and not taking any unnecessary risks.“For this reason, we have suspended sports competitions in areas where there may be even the possibility of spreading the virus.”Considering Italy are already taking Draconian measures in tackling the spread of the virus, it means Antonio Conte, his team and every other football club in Italy might not have it easy in the coming days.Related