Tuckers to bill state for 'thinking time'

A London criminal law firm is to lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court Taxing Office taxing master claiming legal aid money for “thinking time”.

If the claim – brought by criminal law firm Tuckers – is successful, lawyers will be able to charge the public purse for time spent thinking about cases in the bath or on the train home from work.

Tuckers claimed for 150 hours of non-recorded thinking time – which amounted to three hours a week – for its work on a computer parts theft case in a crown court.

But the Central Taxation Unit refused the claim and Tuckers now intends to appeal to the taxing master.

The firm will take counsel's advice on whether or not to seek judicial review if it's claim is unsuccessful at that stage.

Tuckers' crown court billing manager, Martin Grimshaw, said a precedent had been set by a probate case which allowed lawyers to claim for “thinking time”, and he believed that that should apply to criminal cases as well.

Grimshaw, previously assistant circuit taxing director at the Central Taxing Unit, said the taxing office had, in exceptional cases, paid lawyers for thinking time in criminal cases where it felt that the circumstances of the case permitted this.

Grimshaw said: “Are we saying that the standard for a solicitor's professional conduct should be dramatically less in criminal cases? I argue that where liberty is at stake, the pressure should be greater.”

Tuckers' business manager, Brian Craig, said: “Lawyers can't just switch off, especially since some cases attract a lot of media hype.”

Law Society solicitors' remuneration policy executive Greg Lewis said: “There seems to be no clear opinion on this.”