THE CHINESE criminal legal aid system is under threat, with lawyers considering walking away because of the “insulting pay”.
A recent survey undertaken by the China Law Society found that more than three-quarters of junior solicitors polled were considering opting out of criminal legal aid work, the South China Morning Post reported. In addition, around 65 per cent of law firm heads said that they had considered stopping their staff taking on criminal legal aid cases.
The survey, which polled 259 solicitors and 166 law firms, also found that a massive 95 per cent of lawyers are dissatisfied with criminal legal aid fees. It’s not difficult to see why — according to the Post’s report, some senior lawyers who can earn HK$4,000 an hour ($580) have in some cases taken on cases for HK$50 ($7) to HK$100 ($15) an hour. In addition, under the current scheme, which has not been reviewed in over 15 years, lawyers receive no pay for pre-trial work.
Though the government has now agreed to pay for pre-trial case work, proposing an hourly rate of HK$425 ($62) for High Court cases and HK$300 ($44) for District Court cases, lawyers are taking this with a grain of salt. According to the report, almost 80 per cent of the lawyers surveyed think that the proposed rates don’t properly reflect the amount of time spent on a case, with 65 per cent saying that they should receive market rates with a discount applied.