Solicitors come off record of 12 City cases

SOLICITOR’S came off the record of 12 Londonderry court division cases, which had all passed the preliminary inquiry stage, between April 13 and May 27.

Justice Minister David Ford revealed the figures in response to an Assembly Question by DUP MLA Lord Morrow who asked for details of the number of cases that have stalled as a result of solicitors coming off record as part of their protest against fees.

The Minister said it was not court practice to record the reason given by a solicitor for coming off record so it was not possible to state categorically that all of the cases represented the outcome of a protest against the introduction of the new legal aid fees.

But Mr Ford did reveal the number of cases returned for trial where solicitors came off record between April 13, 2011 and May 27, 2011.

The number of cases was as follows: Belfast 53; Londonderry 12; Antrim 6; Fermanagh and Tyrone 12; Armagh and South Down 13; Ards 23; Craigavon 15.

The Justice Minister recently instructed the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service to write directly to all law firms in Northern Ireland to confirm if they will work under new criminal Crown Court Legal Aid rates introduced in March

The Minister said that while a significant number of firms have come off record since the new rates were introduced, some continue to practice.