The UK is facing a shortage of criminal lawyers as the sector faces a chronic recruitment crisis, the Law Society has warned.
Anyone arrested in the UK has the right to seek free advice from a duty counsel.
However, the number of duty solicitors working in Britain fell by 7% between 2018 and 2021, according to figures from the Law Society.
With the drop in the number of criminal duty counsel comes a sharp drop in the number of young people taking up duty counsel jobs, according to figures from the Law Society.
Strikingly, only 4% of duty counsel were aged 35 and under, while nearly a quarter are over 50, the figures show.
Meanwhile, the number of duty counsel aged 35 and under has fallen nearly 35% between 2018 and 2021.
The demographic shift has seen the average duty counsel as a group drop from 47 in 2018 to 49 last year.
The aging profile of UK duty solicitors comes as the government has failed to raise legal aid fees paid to duty solicitors for more than two decades.
The government’s decision not to increase duty counsel fees since 1998 has led to a 35% drop in the number of law firms with criminal assistance lawyers, from 1,652 in 2012 to 1,067 today. today.
I. Stephanie Boyce, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “Each practice lost means fewer practitioners to respond to an ever-increasing number of cases and ensure speedy access to justice for victims and defendants alike. .”