Legal Aid Fees Dispute: “It’s a farce.”

1 views

More on the ongoing legal aid fees dispute.  UTV reports that just 18 out of 500 law firms in Northern Ireland have said they are willing to work under the disputed new pay rates.

A Department of Justice spokesman said: “Copies of the list of firms willing to undertake criminal legal aid work is available to all defendants seeking legal representation from court offices.

“Copies of the list have also been provided to the Prison Service for clients on remand without legal representation.”

But according to one defendant, a number of those on the list are already refusing cases.

By the way, the quote in the title was originally attributed, in the UTV report, to an un-named senior criminal lawyer who was commenting on, what he claimed was, the lack of extensive criminal law experience of some of the firms on the list.  The quote’s no longer there.

Adds  According to the BBC report

Out of about 500 solicitors’ firms in NI, there are 16 on the list. Half are based in Belfast.

Update  Today’s Irish News names the law firms on the list as

Adrian Travers, Banbridge

Berkeley White, Ballycastle

Campbell Stafford, Belfast

Edward Dougan & Co, Rathcoole

Fergusons, Enniskillen

Hunter Associates, Coleraine

John F Gibbons & Co, Belfast

Kappa, Belfast

McAlinden & Rafferty, Belfast

Nicola Bell, Belfast

Orr & Co, Belfast

O’Toole & MacRandle, Belfast

SG Murphy & Co, Newtownabbey

Simmons Meglaughlin & Orr, Dungannon

Siobhan Armstrong, Newry

Stephen Perrot & Co, Holywood

Thompsons McClure, Belfast

Wylie & Co, Castlereagh

Further Update  According to a new [Wed 15 June] BBC report

The BBC understands that there are now 14 solicitors’ firms on the list of those willing to work under the new legal aid arrangements. On Tuesday, a list of 18 such firms was being distributed to defendants at courts across Northern Ireland.

It is understood that four have withdrawn in the last 24 hours.

More  In the comments zone, Lionel Hutz points to the Belfast Telegraph report

However, it emerged last night that five of the firms on the list — McAlinden & Rafferty Solicitors, Nicola Bell Solicitors, Orr & Co Solicitors, Stephen Perrott & Co Solicitors and Wylie & Co Solicitors — have contacted the Courts Service advising it they wish to be removed.

One new firm has since advised the Courts Service it is prepared to take on the cases, meaning that 14 legal firms are currently available to offer a defence to 236 unrepresented defendants.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

  • DC

    So only 18 law firms have come forward…

    But yet apparently:

    61% of solicitors’ firms earned less than £20,000

    Where are these 61%? Must be happy enough even with that amount then.

    PUBLIC DEFENDER OFFICE

    Nuff said.

  • DC

    Just in case people are stuck on the concept of a Public Defender’s Office – from Wiki:

    A public defender is a criminal defense lawyer appointed to represent people charged with a crime but who cannot afford to hire an attorney.

    Different jurisdictions use different approaches in providing legal counsel for criminal defendants who do not have financial access to a private attorney. Under the federal system and most common among the states is through a publicly funded public defender office. Typically, these offices function as an agency of the federal, state or local government and as such, these attorneys are compensated as salaried government employees. This approach provides a substantial majority of the indigent criminal defense representation in the United States.

    In addition to government-based offices, there are also a smaller but significant number of not-for-profit agencies, often referred to as a “Defender Service”, or Legal Aid Societies that provide indigent criminal defense services. These entities tend to rely heavily on indirect sources public funding and charitable contributions to meet their operating costs

    [Re charitable contributions - where's Atlantic Philanthropies when you need them for a good cause - such as possibly funding an NI Public Defender-type organisation!]

  • Lionel Hutz

    Have a look at that study DC.

    Evaluation of the Public Defender Service in England and Wales: Bridges, Cape, Moorhead and Sherr (2007)

    in particular 231. Its around 40% more expensive and its a much worse service.

    Only 18 firms have come forward because those that know whats involved know that the scheme is not economically viable. A few misguided firms who dont do crown court work think they can get a new revenue stream.

    None of these firms are in the top 100 legal aid earning firms

  • DC

    Jim Fitzpatrick of the BBC reported that the public defender office was used in both Scotland and the Republic and that it was cheaper – suggesting the the DoJ should take a look at it.

    Personally, I reckon it should be created and introduced at best in partnership with the current legal aid arrangements, a bit of public and private legal representation mixed in together.

    At the moment there is no real Plan B by the DoJ. Other than sit and wait and see who blinks first.

    A PDO should be created and all staff on fixed term or rolling contracts – so should performance be an issue or something of the likes of Paul Priestly turns up – after 3 or 5 years the contract can be terminated and expired, rather than staff kept on and paid turbo salaries while still delivering poor performance.

  • Lionel Hutz

    No Jim said that they pay less in legal aid. One of the big reasons that they pay less in legal aid is because they pay for a PDO as well. That’s why it’s not comparing like with like

  • DC

    Well that’s what I have in mind really, initially the PDO is created and funded out of money that would have gone into private hands via legal aid fees.

    The strategy is to start off slowly and have a small office – build it up with all the skills and then boil down the private sector work like a nut – use it for a small number of cases that may require disproportionately larger fees, say for specialist criminal cases which a PDO can’t cover.

    It’s the same theory I have for the banks – there should be public sector run banks or publicly owned banks, but kept small in number but run effectively enough – so should any private sector banks collapse again, yes the government prints money and sells bonds etc, but pumps that money into the public banking system, letting the private banks fail. At least even having that option or threat of that option keeps competitors on their toes and answers in part the moral hazard question.

    Same with the PDO – you legal eagles in the private sector get too greedy, simply bump up the staff and funding in the PDO.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Well ok, its another point of view. I don’t see the logic in it myself. If it provided a better service then id be all for it. If it was of the same standard, but was cheaper i’d be all for it. But if its not, then why would you do it.

  • Lionel Hutz

    In the interests of balance, here is what the Scots think of their PDSO:

    Public and private defence solicitors share many similarities. However, public defence solicitors tend to resolve cases at an earlier stage in the proceedings. This is the main point of
    difference between the two delivery methods and has ramifications for both costs and outcomes.

    Resolving cases earlier has the potential to save legal aid (and thus the taxpayer) costs – though the PDSO would need to secure further increases in work (or make further reductions
    to staffing levels) for this potential to be realised. It also reduces court and prosecution costs. Fewer witnesses are inconvenienced. Clients are spared the wait and worry of repeated court diets and are less likely to be held in detention pending the resolution of their case.

    On the other hand, earlier resolution also leads to a small but measurable increase in conviction rate. By pleading guilty at the pleading diet or intermediate diet, rather than holding on until the day of the trial, clients substitute the certainty of conviction for the possibility that the prosecution case will collapse. Under the Scottish sentencing system, they are given no clear sentence discount for this behaviour. Clients may also feel less supported
    by public defenders – that by encouraging earlier resolution, they were not “really standing up for their rights”.

    Scotland’s policy-makers face the responsibility of weighing the findings of the report so as to balance the competing demands of justice.

  • Lionel Hutz

    According to the reports in Scotland, there is no real difference in the rate of pay. The potential for savings are made in early resolution of cases and PDO’s do come to deal’s more with the Prosecution that Private Lawyers. This would include the likes of mixed pleas (pleading to some charges to get others dropped). However its only potential, that has never been realised. They need to be working to capacity to be cheaper, and I would say that as they are public sector, there will not be the same efficiency culture.

    PDO’s have a higher conviction rate, perhaps largely as a consequence of the above. Client’s do feel less supportive of PDO’s as well.

    The only thing about scotland is that the PDO only was used in their equivalent of a Magistrate’s court at that point, not Crown Court, so it is difficult to compare the level of advocacy.

  • Pete Baker

    Update Today’s Irish News names the law firms on the list as

    Adrian Travers, Banbridge
    Berkeley White, Ballycastle
    Campbell Stafford, Belfast
    Edward Dougan & Co, Rathcoole
    Fergusons, Enniskillen
    Hunter Associates, Coleraine
    John F Gibbons & Co, Belfast
    Kappa, Belfast
    McAlinden & Rafferty, Belfast
    Nicola Bell, Belfast
    Orr & Co, Belfast
    O’Toole & MacRandle, Belfast
    SG Murphy & Co, Newtownabbey
    Simmons Meglaughlin & Orr, Dungannon
    Siobhan Armstrong, Newry
    Stephen Perrot & Co, Holywood
    Thompsons McClure, Belfast
    Wylie & Co, Castlereagh

  • Barnshee

    Get these parasites to publish details of details of their income– anonymously please -just the figures

  • Lionel Hutz

    Google some of them. I did a google search yesterday on them. How many do criminal law?

  • mycousinvinny

    Lionel

    You are well read on this issue. Seems to me that you should assist your colleagues at the Bar by volunteering your services. Every assistance helps in the face of the DoJ PR machine. I suggest you approach the Bar Council who could, no doubt, find a role for you.

  • tyronelaw

    1 example… Kappa Law, according to their website [http://kappalaw.com/] they are a “niche commercial legal practice”. Under services they list three headings, “Business Law”, “Employment Law” and “Property Law”.

    NO reference to any Criminal Experience…. they do not even do they claim to have experience any any form of Civil litigation before the Courts.

    It must be remembered that the cases which are subject matter of this dispute are serious criminal cases.

  • Lionel Hutz

    The BBC reported on the radio that the list now contains only 14 firms. Reports of intimidation are rife.

    I will also note that one of the things that the NICTS said they wouldn’t publish the list. They did as they said they would, they gave it to defendants who wanted it on request. I would doubt though that many of these firms believed it would be in the Irish News the next day.

    Is it intimidation? Are Solicitors actually intimidating other solicitors? I would doubt that but I would say there would be a very cold reception. At the end of the day, these firms are taking on cases that the experience criminal firms came of record in. Its got to cause annoyance and I woudl imagine any solicitor would start to feel isolated if thats what they are doing. It would be different if it was that solicitors case to begin with. I think that isolation would be difficult and it has to be damaging to the profession.

    The Belfast Telegraph are proving themselves to be the most sensationalist rag and a mouthpiece for the government. They haven’t scrutinized anything these official have said, just taken it as gospel.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I saw the case in the news today about the guy who posted his own bail because he couldn’t get legal representation. This is somewhat at odds with the idea that criminal law is an incredibly complex and specialized area in all cases. I’m sure it’s not beyond the wit of a regular legal firm to deal with it.

    I have no problem accepting that a complex defence may require detailed criminal law experience. But surely a significant proportion of these cases are open and shut matters where the evidence is beyond doubt and/or the client is willing to plead guilty.

    Is it intimidation? Are Solicitors actually intimidating other solicitors? I would doubt that but I would say there would be a very cold reception.

    Is that guy Bell who was in the Telegraph today lying then ?

  • Pete Baker

    Further Update According to a new [Wed 15 June] BBC report

    The BBC understands that there are now 14 solicitors’ firms on the list of those willing to work under the new legal aid arrangements.

    On Tuesday, a list of 18 such firms was being distributed to defendants at courts across Northern Ireland.

    It is understood that four have withdrawn in the last 24 hours.

  • Lionel Hutz

    CS,

    “I saw the case in the news today about the guy who posted his own bail because he couldn’t get legal representation. This is somewhat at odds with the idea that criminal law is an incredibly complex and specialized area in all cases. I’m sure it’s not beyond the wit of a regular legal firm to deal with it.

    I have no problem accepting that a complex defence may require detailed criminal law experience. But surely a significant proportion of these cases are open and shut matters where the evidence is beyond doubt and/or the client is willing to plead guilty”

    Thats a bail application. Thats not running a case. The Judge can ask the questions in that case. Its far from right though. These are crown court cases, Indictable offences and they are all very serious. They are the most serious 3-4% of criminal cases.

    Is that guy Bell who was in the Telegraph today lying then ?

    I haven’t seen the Telegraph today but saw it reported the last two days. I dont know this man, but in all seirousness, I do not believe him and have cause to question his motives.

    I dont understand why this man put himself in the spotlight as he has done. For example:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-13593456

    He also gave interviews to the Belfast Telegraph criticizing the actions of his collegues.

    I dont understand why he did this. And I dont understand why the press seemed to be everywhere this man went and why they always seemed to know.

    And yes, it would have been very difficult in Newry last week:

    http://www.u.tv/News/Lawyers-hadnt-read-papers-in-drugs-case/94602cce-0194-4650-a182-bbbc2ad908ea

    But thats not intimidation is it?

  • Crubeen

    No wonder the DoJ wants to batter the legal profession … it might divert attention from more serious matters: -

    http://www.thedetail.tv/issues/12/hydebank-suicides/suicides-in-prison-ombudsman-and-families-speak-out

  • Framer

    Why the strange silence from the radicals and Trots who would normally be shouting the odds against people paid £1m a year from the public purse? Now if they were consultants…

  • Crubeen

    “I dont understand why he did this. And I dont understand why the press seemed to be everywhere this man went and why they always seemed to know.”

    Dreadful isn’t it!?! Who could possibly have told the hacks where this person could be found? Is this another phone hacking scandal?

  • Crubeen

    Framer,

    If they had been consultants they would have been paid 10 times as much.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Lionel,

    It’s all starting to look very dodgy indeed. 18 firms on the list, and apparently four drop off without giving a reason.

    Crubeen,

    I don’t think the DoJ have been able to hide from the suicides issue – it was covered extensively on Nolan and I’m sure it’ll be in tomorrow’s Tele.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Lionel,
    It’s all starting to look very dodgy indeed. 18 firms on the list, and apparently four drop off without giving a reason.

    ———–

    But it doesn’t equate to intimidation. I’ve seen the Telegraph too now. One of the quotes by the way was the quote in the UTV article to which Pete refers in the main article. The others seem like responses from barristers actually to requests to work, if that’s what they are.

    The fact of the matter is that Telegraph and the Department were talking about intimidation before the list was even published. No-one has done any work yet, so there was no chance of facing intimidation until the list was published, which was yesterday. The only work that been done was the humiliation in Newry. That’s what this is about in my view. Because that is frankly misconduct.

    Why would another four solicitors drop of the list? Well for a start they can’t get a Barrister, so they can’t do the work. On top of that, they are being publicised and what member of a profession would want to be publicised as acting against their peers. Remember, the implication of saying I’ll do the work, is that you are saying that the experienced criminal solicitors are lying. I’m surprised that more haven’t dropped our.

    And all of this publicity is designed to detract from the point that only 18 firms have come forward, out of over 500. In fact that amounts to about 40 solicitors out of 2,500. Nearly 99% of solicitors have said no. Much better to say that solicitors are being intimidated than say they are united against the minister, which they are.

    But what the DoJ fails to understand is that while this PR campaign might ingratiate himself to the public, it is not going to pursuade the solicitors, they are relatively close-knit and they know the full story. Divide and conquer might work in a massive jurisdiction like England but in NI, they won’t be so easily divided.

  • Lionel Hutz

    CS,

    Also the “smear campaign” is just people why would this man be so eager to help the alliance-party Minister. They may be wrong but I’d imagine you may be in a position to know.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Pete,

    You should remove the following firms from the list:

    McAlinden & Rafferty Solicitors
    Nicola Bell Solicitors
    Orr & Co Solicitors
    Stephen Perrott & Co Solicitors
    Wylie & Co Solicitors

    One as yet unknown firm has however joined the list. That’s 14

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/defendants-left-unrepresented-as-more-solicitors-join-boycott-16012441.html

  • Framer

    Crubeen wrote “Framer, If they had been consultants they would have been paid 10 times as much.”

    But my point was that a single lawyer earned a million last year. Consultants employ staff (plural).

    Lionel Hutz wrote: “CS, why would this man be so eager to help the alliance-party Minister. They may be wrong but I’d imagine you may be in a position to know.”

    Time for you to declare an interest here Lionel? I have the weeniest suspicion you are in the legal trade.

  • Crubeen

    Framer,

    “But my point was that a single lawyer earned a million last year. Consultants employ staff (plural).”

    Barristers also employ staff and have dues to pay to the Bar Library, etc

    “Time for you to declare an interest here Lionel? I have the weeniest suspicion you are in the legal trade.”

    Lionel has already declared his interest as a member of the Bar. And, before you ask, I have declared my interests in my profile and they do not include being a member of, employed by or having any interest (other than as a client or perhaps litigant in person) in the legal profession

  • Pete Baker

    More In the comments zone, Lionel Hutz points to the Belfast Telegraph report

    However, it emerged last night that five of the firms on the list — McAlinden & Rafferty Solicitors, Nicola Bell Solicitors, Orr & Co Solicitors, Stephen Perrott & Co Solicitors and Wylie & Co Solicitors — have contacted the Courts Service advising it they wish to be removed.

    One new firm has since advised the Courts Service it is prepared to take on the cases, meaning that 14 legal firms are currently available to offer a defence to 236 unrepresented defendants.

  • ulsterscotnua

    Some facts need to be considered.
    A very few barristers and solicitors earn very large amount of money.
    These are usually very experienced and often with family links in the legal business.
    The vast majority of solicitors and barristers especially those who have qualified in the last 5 years earn relatively small incomes. In fact some solicitors were laid off a couple of years ago with the housing crash.
    Both these groups of people have spent a long time in university and law school. Their student loans did not cover all their tuition and most had to take out expensive bank loans as well as student loans.
    These young Professional people certainly do not receive enough money for the effort and expense in attaining their Qualifications. Many more may be forced to leave the Profession

  • Skint Taxpayer

    ulsterscotnua

    Unfortunate though it may be, there are many graduates in professions that earn moderate incomes and have to put up with lay offs eg highly qualified professionals in our wealth creating industries. However remember non graduates also have to put up with threats to their jobs…just because one goes to uni shouldn’t mean a golden ticket to a job for life. Unfortunate if anyone has to leave their chosen profession, this happens in the real world.

    Difference is the country needs wealth creation, which pays for health services and education professionals. Further down the national priority list, in my view, is the legal profession which is at times self serving. In fact as part of a licence to practice the profession should undertake a proprtionate no. of legal aid cases at the new rate.

    We don’t get our ever decreasing professional wealth creators crying that NI/UK consumers are buying cheaper white goods, cars, clothes, food from outside the country…..they have simply to compete or go under. The same stance should apply to the legal profession …cheaper should be a challenge for efficiency.

  • Lionel Hutz

    The Legal Aid Dispute seems to have fallen out of the media spotlight recently. Here is an answer to a recent question in the assembly.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/northern_ireland/newsid_9514000/9514832.stm

    There were 254 defendants have been left without representation. A further 19 may be unrepresented.

    There are now only 8 firms on the lsit, with a possibility of 3 english firms expressing an interest in the work. Apparently there is a list of Barrister, which includes Barrister form outside NI (not sure if it includes Barristers from inside NI).

    But Alban Maguinness says the Bar Council and Law Society’s proposals was within budget.

    My understanding is that the Dpeartments proposals come in at around £70 million, which includes £8 million on administration costs. This would come in at around £34.50 per capita. England and Wales spend £39.50. Yet somehow, we are told that we are still paying higher.

    Ford continually points out that:
    - The new rules are legally enforced having been passed through the assembly by default.
    - There is no legal process for him to “give the lawyers what they want”
    - He cannot change the rules

    So when he talks about a review, and the possibility of addressing problems in the rules, what is he actually going to do about them. How can he fix problems in 6 months but not now?

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    Interesting Law in Action this week on Radio 4.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Yeah, I heard that. Thats the end of legal aid work in England and Wales. Legal aid is subsidised by solicitor firms. Many of the public who get taken in by the “fat cat” lawyer PR bullshit forget that the top legal aid lawyers do it for pride and ego really. They like seeing themselves as defenders of the public. If money is what you are after, you find work elsewhere. If solicitor firms cant supplement legal aid work, they’ll stop or go to the wall. Legal aid wastelands and the collapse of one of the pillars of the welfare state

  • Lionel Hutz

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/deadlock-in-legal-aid-row-16016039.html

    It seems apparent from this report that there are no barristers willing to take on the work. 8 firms of solicitors. Not looking great for access to justice.

    Some of the problems will be mitigated by the fact that we are now entering summer recess anyway.

    The real immediate concern will be with bail applications. I’ve only heard of a couple of bail applications taking place in the last few months in the crown court. Ofcourse, bail applications could take place in the Magistrates Court before the case goes to the Crown Court, but it still looks like defendants could be locked up when they really shouldn’t be

  • Lionel Hutz

    http://www.u.tv/News/Solicitors-conduct-questioned-by-Ford/f8d72258-07ac-41d4-9b07-fe45dee28325

    The details of the allegations of bullying were revealed at the justice committee after a little role play between David Ford and Jim Wells.

    The extent of the allegation appears to be that one solicitor asked the Irish News to run a story on the connection between another solicitor, who was willing to work under the new fees, and the Minister.

    I breathe a sigh of relief. That’s it????

  • Comrade Stalin

    Many of the public who get taken in by the “fat cat” lawyer PR bullshit forget that the top legal aid lawyers do it for pride and ego really.

    Doesn’t that sort of undermine your case that the modest cut in the fees will undermine access to justice ?

    If money is what you are after, you find work elsewhere.

    Your arguments are very confused. On one hand you are saying that the lawyers are all doing legal aid work on a more or less pro bono basis, and they’re not really in it for the money. On the other hand you are arguing that modest cuts to the funding will destroy legal representation because they’ll all walk away in search of better money elsewhere. Which is it ?

    And what sort of work is there elsewhere ? Won’t it be under pressure if the solicitors all decide to chase it given that they don’t want to do legal aid anymore ?

    The extent of the allegation appears to be that one solicitor asked the Irish News to run a story on the connection between another solicitor, who was willing to work under the new fees, and the Minister.

    I breathe a sigh of relief. That’s it????

    Kevin Winters is no idiot and I am sure he knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote this letter. Accordingly I’m sure it’s entirely legally defensible but, if the suggestions are true, an attempt to suggest that there is some sort of corruption on the part of the justice minister is extremely serious.

    I’m afraid it does nothing for the image of the professionalism or fairness of the legal profession when it appears to collectively have no compunction about using dirty tricks to try to obtain its objectives.

  • Lionel Hutz

    “Your arguments are very confused. On one hand you are saying that the lawyers are all doing legal aid work on a more or less pro bono basis, and they’re not really in it for the money. On the other hand you are arguing that modest cuts to the funding will destroy legal representation because they’ll all walk away in search of better money elsewhere. Which is it ?

    And what sort of work is there elsewhere ? Won’t it be under pressure if the solicitors all decide to chase it given that they don’t want to do legal aid anymore ? “

    I’m not sure where you see the contradiction. Legal aid in work, and in particular Criminal Legal Aid work is not known to be particularly well paid. Its not. But it is the “sexy” area of the law. The glamourized bit. When I started at the Bar at the institute, we were all asked what area we wanted to practice in. To a man and woman, we all said criminal law. A few years on, that would be very different.

    But it remains profitable, just not that profitable in comparison to other areas of law. Its not Pro Bono work. However, if you make the significant cuts that are being made it makes it unviable.

    If you think this cut is modest, then I would urge you seriously to look at the NIAO report.

    http://www.niauditoffice.gov.uk/pubs/2011/legal_aid/8935_Legal_aid_final.pdf

    Go to page 15 and look at Figure 4. The entire spend on criminal legal aid was £50.8 million. The fees had reduced from £60 million the previous year because changes made in 2009 had filtered through. The Bar Council and Law Society believe that figure would have continued to fall but even taking that £50.8 million:

    - £20.6 million is from the Magistrates Court
    - £0.7 million is from the High Court Bail Appeals
    - £29.5 million is from the Crown Court (that is taking the Crown Court Fee with the VHCC fees)

    Now the Minister has said repeatedly that the new Crown Rules will make £18.3 million of savings to that £29.5 million. They remove the VHCC all together and cut the remianing fees by 20% for Bar and 25% for solicitors.

    Remember when you ehard David Ford saying that delaying the new rules cost £1.5 million a month. Im sure you have heard him say that. £18 million per year is £1.5 million a month.

    Look at it. Its massive. Its well over a 50% cut.

    How can anyone honestly expect to work for that?
    How does anyone expect the same standard of justice?

    Seriously CS, put your party loyalties to one side and look at the figures objectively. How can this be called modest?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Kevin Winters is no idiot and I am sure he knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote this letter. Accordingly I’m sure it’s entirely legally defensible but, if the suggestions are true, an attempt to suggest that there is some sort of corruption on the part of the justice minister is extremely serious.
    ————

    This is nothing. If it was truly serious then it would be treated as such. Instead we had David Ford and his DUP backers conducting this little farcical role play between which they sit there sniggering. In fact, Mr Wells comments were much more like a smear on the solicitor. Suggesting that this was done to make money is clearly nonsensical. But undoubtedly, certain quarters feel on the receiving of a malicious PR campaign to force to comply with cuts that no other service is having to deal with. When the Antrim personal injury lawyer (with demonstrably little experience in the Crown court) went to the media to criticise the solicitors for not working under the Crown Court fees, ofcourse some others are going to start asking “Why?”

    I don’t know where you get your corruption idea out off.

    But I would agree that from a PR point of view, it does lawyers no favours. However, I suppose it’s better than the negative PR when trials start to go wrong because they can’t do the work required because they don’t have the money.

  • World_Watcher

    Between the NI Prison Service being in a mess, the Police Ombudsman and also the Legal Aid Farce, David Ford is not doing very well.

    He blatant attempt to use the BBC as a campaign tool is wearing thin now on many. How many stories about legal aid fees can he get them to run with? The bottom line is all he is doing is publishing figures which relate to a tiny tiny percentage of lawyers and many of the figures relate to VHC cases, which are being abolished.

    Mr Ford will have to do some hard thinking over the next few weeks his DOJ….