Defence firms ‘should make it clear to legal aid clients how their publicly funded status affects the service they get’, according to a leading solicitor advocate. ‘It’s a myth that clients get the same level of service on legal aid rates as when they pay privately – that disappeared about 10 years ago,’ Ian Kelcey, a senior partner at Bristol firm Kelcey & Hall and Law Society council member told a Law Society criminal law conference.
According to the Law Society’s Gazette, Kelcey said there was ‘a limit to what firms can be expected to do on legal aid rates’ and suggested firms ‘explain the constraints this puts on them’. ‘We can’t supply a platinum level of service with base metal rates of pay.’
‘There is no excuse for not doing your very best for each and every client (which I am sure Ian’s firm does), or for reducing the levels of service you offer if you intend to carry on with criminal defence work that is state-funded. No one is forced to take on a legal aid contract; it is a matter of choice for each firm.’
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award