The UK is facing a shortage of criminal duty solicitors, as the sector faces a chronic recruitment crisis, the Law Society has warned.
Any individual arrested in the UK has the right to seek advice from a duty solicitor, free of charge.
However, the number of duty solicitors working in Britain dropped 7 per cent between 2018 and 2021, according to figures from the Law Society.
The drop in the number of criminal duty solicitors comes amid a sharp drop in the number of young people taking up jobs as duty solicitors, the Law Society figures show.
Strikingly, just 4 per cent of duty solicitors were aged 35 and under, while almost a quarter are older than 50, the figures show.
Meanwhile, the number of duty solicitors aged 35 and under plummeted by almost 35 per cent between 2018 and 2021.
The shift in demographics has seen the average of duty solicitors as a group increase from 47 in 2018, to 49 last year.
The aging profile of the UK’s duty solicitors comes as the government has failed to raise legal aid fees paid out to criminal duty solicitors for more than two decades.
The government’s decision not to increase fees for duty solicitors since 1998 has seen the number of law firms with criminal aid lawyers on their books drop 35 per cent, from 1,652 in 2012 to 1,067 today.
I. Stephanie Boyce, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “Each lost firm means fewer practitioners to respond to an ever-growing number of cases and ensure timely access to justice for victims and defendants.”