A Lynn solicitor supported a protest against Government plans to cut the legal aid budget by not attending court yesterday.
Andrew Cogan was among hundreds of solicitors and barristers across the country who are taking unprecedented action in the battle against Government plans to cut the budget by £220 million.
Mr Cogan, who was due to represent three cases at West Norfolk Magistrates’ Court yesterday, says there has not been an increase in rates since 1996.
He works 80 hours a week, sometimes called out in the middle of the night, representing the “mad, bad and sad” for a salary of about £45,000.
The Ministry of Justice say the cuts are necessary to ensure the legal aid bill, which costs £2 billion, is sustainable.
Mr Cogan, who is a partner with CCW, said the cost cutting plans could reduce the number of solicitors and barristers looking to practice criminal law, which would have an impact on defendants.
He said: “We have not had a pay rise since 1996. Unfortunately there has been decreasing in the rates of remuneration of solicitors in representing the most vulnerable in our society who would otherwise be convicted.
“Since there is a proposal that rates should be cut by 17.5 to 23 per cent, it seems to me only right and proper to draw the public’s attention to the fact that we can’t continue in this way.”
Mr Cogan said solicitors receive £190 for a guilty plea and £306.25 for a not guilty plea.
They also receive £180 for being called out to represent clients at the police station.
Mr Cogan said: “The number of people I have represented at a police station say the do not realise what kind of work we do.
“Any of us could be arrested for any reason but having a solicitor could make the difference between becoming a schedule one offender and never able to work with children again as they have been convicted for common assault. Because of that we always strive to ensure that the consequences visited upon those people that don’t deserve it.”
Mr Cogan said that an experienced solicitor in the commercial world could expect to earn £250,000 a year.
He said: “Everyone thinks that solicitors make a huge amount of money.
“I have made the choice to help those who are vulnerable – the mad, bad and sad. Those that suffering from mental health problems really need assistance and there are those extremely sad and terrible cases. The bad are equally as entitled to representation as anyone else.”
Magistrates courts deal with 98 per cent of cases.