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THE Law Society has accused the Government of "risking quality" by imposing a fees freeze on legal aid practitioners.
The Lord Chancellor's Dep-artment (LCD) announced last week that legal aid fees would remain at last year's levels.
It is the fourth time legal aid fees have been frozen during the last six years, although the Law Society claims there has been an 18.4 per cent increase in overheads during that time.
Fees were also frozen in 1993, 1994, 1997 and 1998.
A Law Society spokesman slated the Government for cutting payments for a public service, when the society had "made countless suggestions to remove anomalies in payments, control QCs' fees, stamp out fraud and abuse, and many other measures to control costs".
He called on the Government to ensure that solicitors undertaking legal aid work were paid "properly and fairly".
Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG) vice-chair Richard Miller called the freeze "another slap in the face for the very people the Government claims it is anxious to form a partnership with".
Miller said: "It is disappointing but what we have come to expect. There are already indications of LAPG members reducing the amount of legal aid work they do - or stopping altogether, and this can only accelerate the trend."