Lawyers have raised concerns that cuts to legal aid will result in delays and miscarriages of justice in FCA court cases.
The Government is set to introduce a 30 per cent cut to fees paid to solicitors and barristers for ’very high costs cases’ as part of plans to cut £220m from the £2bn annual legal aid budget. FCA trials tend to be classed as VHCCs, meaning trials are expected to last over 60 days.
This week barristers and solicitors staged an unprecedented mass walk out in protest over the plans, which will affect any case heard from the end of April.
Last week the Law Society Gazette reported that no barristers could be found to represent defendants in an upcoming £4.5m FCA fraud trial because of the cut to VHCC fees. The Legal Aid Agency has now split the trial into two so that it is no longer classed as a VHCC.
Reynolds Porter Chamberlain partner Richard Burger says the planned legal aid cuts could have knock-on effects on FCA cases.
He says: “Defendants in complex fraud cases may struggle to find good quality lawyers, or be forced to represent themselves.
“Unfortunately this means FCA cases are likely to take longer, which could lead to additional costs for the regulator.”
4 Pump Court barrister Peter Hamilton says: “This will certainly lead to miscarriages of justice. There will be convictions where there would not have been had defendants been properly represented.”
Highclere Financial Services partner Alan Lakey says: “This is a concern. By cutting back on legal aid and trying to reduce the cost to the state, the Government is transferring cost to the industry.”
The FCA declined to comment.