The Law Society has launched a new campaign to highlight the looming crisis in the numbers of criminal duty solicitors (CDS).
Years of erosion of Criminal Legal Aid (CLA), coupled with increasing per-case workloads, has lead to fewer solicitors entering the field of criminal work. As a result an increasing percentage of existing CDS are at-or-nearing retirement age: The mean average of a CDS across the whole of England and Wales is now 47, and in many regions the average is even higher.
New data published by the Law Society - and ably illustrated in a 'heat map' the Society has produced - shows a mixed picture in the North East: Durham is bucking the national average, with 117 CDS in total, 43% of whom are over the age of 50. However Northumbria, Newcastle and North Yorkshire aren't faring as well, with (respectively) 52, 109 and 89 CDS in total, and 58%, 54% and 57% over the age of 50.
But spare a thought for the Mid and South Wales regions, and the South West of England. In Wiltshire, for example, there are only 17 CDS covering the entire area, of whom 65% are over the age of 50, whilst in the whole of Mid Wales there are a mere 11 CDS, with 64% over the age of 50.
The Law Society's campaign aims to highlight how this crisis threatens to leave many individuals unable to access their right to a solicitor and free advice. As part of the campaign it is encouraging solicitors to contact their MPs, and has created an online submission form to simplify the process.
You can find out more, view the heat map, and find further details about contacting your MP here.