Duty solicitors are threatening to strike on new year's eve unless the Legal Aid Board agrees to pay them at least three times their normal fees.
The Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA) is demanding a meeting with the LAB at which it will call for the extra cash.
CLSA chairman Franklin Sinclair says: “If the LAB won't fork out the extra money there's going to be a backlash from solicitors and they won't go out.”
But the LAB says the matter is out of its hands.
A spokeswoman says: “Payment is based on the Duty Solicitors Remuneration Regulations and the board is not in the position to pay more than the regulations allow. Any change would have to be made by the Lord Chancellor's Department.”
But the LCD is non-committal. A spokesman says: “We are aware of the issue and of the concerns and they are being considered by the department at the moment.”
Sinclair says a number of duty solicitors have taken themselves off the duty solicitor roster, while others say they expect a considerable uplift in normal fees to work on that night.
He also warns that it may not be just on New Year's Eve that lawyers will be looking for more money.
“The country is going to be practically shut down for about two weeks and it may be solicitors will be looking for higher rates over all of that,” he says.
He adds: “The feeling is that we will be looking for an uplift of at least three to four times what we normally get which is an hourly rate of u60 per hour.”