Legal aid dispute: UPDATE

Two weeks ago I blogged about the legal aid row in Northern Ireland and how so few solicitors were willing to provide their services under the new payment arrangements introduced by Minister for Justice, David Ford. Just to follow up, it appears that through negotiations between the Law Society and the Department of Justice, this row has now come to an end. It is not at all clear what has been agreed to resolve the differences and whether this will be a lasting arrangement. Given the importance of legal aid to defending the rights of accused persons and to the integrity of the criminal justice system it is important that the nature of the agreement is made public. I attempted to outline several concerns with the system as it was operating and we are entitled to know if these have been addressed.

Irrespective of this, we should not lose site of those accused of crimes who have suffered significantly over the last number of months while this dispute was ongoing.