Legal Profession

The Legal Profession committee is chaired by Dr Lucy Welsh and is focusing its attention on the current crisis in legal aid.

Dr Lucy Welsh is a senior law lecturer at the University of Sussex and co-director of the Crime Research Centre and director of Clinical Legal Education.

Many of the notorious miscarriages (e.g., the Birmingham Six and the Cardiff Three) occurred when suspects were denied access to a duty solicitor or else forced to rely on an ineffectual one who sat passively by.

Anyone who is detained or interviewed by the police is entitled to a legal aid lawyer – it is a right enshrined under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). For solicitors’ firms, police station work has become a ‘loss leader’ undertaken in the hope of picking up lucrative work further down the line as a case develops.

The average fee for a duty case is about £150 for, for example, five or six hours at a police station in the early hours of the morning.  Originally this vital but unglamorous work was done by solicitors; increasingly it has been delegated to (to quote the legal academic Dr Hannah Quirk) ‘the most junior, frequently unqualified staff’ or else farmed out to agencies often staffed by retired police officers.

We are grateful to be funded by the partners at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP under the leadership of Mr Jason Glover and Mr Nicholas Shaw.