The government response to Lord Bellamy’s Legal Aid review on prison law is bitterly disappointing.
The government has dismissed the calls for an uplift in prison law fees at this stage by both Lord Bellamy’s advice and the majority of respondents to the consultation.
The only reason provided is the government’s desire to “focus available funding on the initial stages of criminal cases to support early case resolution.”
This is short sighted: Effective prison law advice is essential to reduce the human and financial cost of unnecessary incarceration. The rejection came on the same day that it was revealed that the Ministry of Justice had to request the emergency use of 400 police cells due to lack of capacity in prisons. As the Parole Board itself has pointed out, prison lawyers play a vital role in the parole system. A sustainable supply of prison law legal aid lawyers is essential if the reforms introduced by the government to protect victims are to work.
The APL has written to the Secretary of State for Justice to ask to meet to discuss the prison law rates.