Bringing solicitors from England ‘won’t work’

Derry Courthouse
Derry Courthouse

A local solicitor has said bringing solicitors over from England to work in Northern Ireland as the legal aid row escalates “will not work.”

Pearse MacDermott, chairman of the Solicitors Criminal Bar Association, spoke to the ‘Journal’ after the Justice Minister David Ford said he may be forced to approach solicitors in England because solicitors’ firms here will not work on criminal cases because of a reduction in fees.

The reducted fees were introduced in March for cases returned to the crown court, in a bid by the Justice Minister to cut the legal aid bill in Northern Ireland.

So far solicitors have withdrawn from almost 140 cases, with twelve in the Derry area being affected so far.

Yesterday Mr MacDermott said solicitors are “committed to the action.”

“It is ironic if the justice minister brings in English solicitors to this jurisdiction with the consequential loss of income to the economy. He seems to forget that solicitor firms here employ a large number of staff whose earnings are spent within local communities.”

Mr MacDermott added: “If he goes ahead with the plans it may also take some time for English solicitors to get themselves used to our system. It would be very difficult for them to operate in our jurisdiction because things are different in England. They will not understand the nature of the work, the nature of the clients or the daily operation of the courts.”

The solicitor said the minister is due to meet with the Law Society later today and “We hope he will come to the meeting with a fresh appraoch to try and resolve the situation,” he told the ‘Journal’ yesterday.