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

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It is understood that four have withdrawn in the last 24 hours.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