Legal aid is demand-led, and expenditure fluctuates depending on the volume of cases and their complexity and outcome. The spend on legal aid in the 2015-16 financial year was £92 million. The total spend was affected by barristers in the Crown Court‘s withdrawal of services, which reduced the number of cases completed last year.
The reforms that have been introduced, including the introduction of standard fees in the criminal courts and the removal of very high cost cases, will realise savings of some £19 million per annum when fully implemented. The first of the reforms introduced in the civil courts, relating to the authorisation of counsel, have already delivered savings in excess of £1 million.
Further reforms will be brought forward in this financial year. In particular, standard fees for family proceedings cases will be brought forward to replace the current system. It is estimated that that will realise savings of £3 million per annum. Proposals for changes to the scope of civil legal aid will also be brought before the Assembly later this year and are aimed at delivering further savings.
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