UK Association of Prison Lawyers report reveals number of legal aid prison lawyers declining News
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UK Association of Prison Lawyers report reveals number of legal aid prison lawyers declining

A UK Association of Prison Lawyers (APL) survey published Monday reveals that prison lawyers are at risk of quitting if legal fees are not raised. The report asserts that prison law legal aid work is ‘no longer sustainable’ due to the ‘exhausting and poorly paid work’ undertaken by lawyers. It states that despite complex changes in the Victims and Prisoners Bill, there is no mention of increasing fees for legal aid to make up for the greater amount of work the bill will create for lawyers.

According to the survey, the number of prison law legal aid providers decreased 85 per cent between 2008 and 2022, 88 per cent of survey respondents said they are thinking about leaving prison legal aid due to insufficient compensation.

Aside from the Victims and Prisoners Bill, some surveyed providers said that previous rule changes have increased their workloads. Last year, former Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab made changes to the Parole Board rules which prevented Prison and Probation staff from providing the Parole Board with recommendations regarding the release of imprisoned persons, However, it was held to be unlawful and reversed following its High Court challenge, R v Bailey. Although the change was reversed, it created more work for lawyers given the period of prohibition before R v Bailey was successful.

Additionally, the test for whether a prisoner is eligible to be moved to an open prison was toughened in 2022. According to one survey respondent, this change results in ‘delays with recommendations being considered and fallout when they are rejected’.

In 2021, Lord Christopher Bellamy released his Criminal Legal Aid Independent Review outlining the importance of funding for legal aid along with recommendations including, among others, increasing funding for prison legal aid, reforming how providers are paid and promoting efficiency in prison legal aid.

The APL report recommends that the UK Government ‘implement the uplift recommended by Lord Bellamy immediately’ and ‘review the viability of prison law legal aid with a view to considering what further investment in prison law and infrastructure is required in the longer term’ in order to mitigate the decline of prison aid lawyers.