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When paying the piper gets the 'wrong' tune : the impact of fixed payments on case management, case trajectories and 'quality' in criminal defence work

Tata, C. and Stephen, F. (2007) When paying the piper gets the 'wrong' tune : the impact of fixed payments on case management, case trajectories and 'quality' in criminal defence work. In: Transforming lives. The Stationery Office, UK, pp. 186-210. ISBN 9780117021464

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Abstract

Do changes to the structure and level of legal aid payments significantly affect the trajectories of criminal cases? Do these changes make a difference to how defence lawyers handle cases, how they negotiate with prosecutors and how clients are advised to plead? In recent years, Scotland has made major changes to the remuneration structures for criminal defence work. This paper reports on a research study examining the impact of one of these changes: the move to 'fixed payments'. It seeks to contribute to international knowledge about the relationship between legal aid payment regimes and criminal case trajectories. Furthermore, are there any important consequences for clients, or, are changes simply absorbed by lawyers, or neutralised by other developments? The paper explains that the objective of the fixed payments policy (to encourage greater 'efficiency' in the criminal process) was contradicted by other consequences, which were unexpected by the architects of the policy.