England: Legal aid lawyers take lord chancellor to court

England: Legal aid lawyers take lord chancellor to court

Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk is being taken to the High Court by lawyers who say legal aid fees are so low they cannot provide representation to thousands of people.

The case revolves around access to legal aid for immigration and asylum lawyers and is being brought by Duncan Lewis solicitors.

Mr Chalk is accused of failing or refusing to raise rates for what is called “controlled work” – legal aid work in the immigration and asylum field.

Demand for this kind of work outstrips supply, with thousands of people unable to access legal aid. Lawyers and NGOs said that the UK government is fully aware of the problem as it has provided evidence in response to consultations in which it has stated that there are “devastating consequences” of inadequate legal aid.

Jeremy Bloom, of Duncan Lewis solicitors, said: “It is heartbreaking for us, but over the last five years we have had to make massive reductions in the number of legal aid asylum claims and appeals that we take on.

“Legal aid will never be wildly profitable, and that’s OK. But providers of legal aid cannot continue taking on work that causes financial losses. It is not sustainable, and the losers are the people who need representation.”

President of the Law Society, Nick Emmerson, said: “The civil justice system is in a precarious state and ultimately the ones who will suffer are those trying to seek justice.”

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