What is this all about?
The Government has announced a new consultation on cuts to criminal legal aid, specifically its plans to reduce the number of contracts that let firms do “duty solicitor” work. The Government wants to drop the number of contracts from the current figure of around 1,600 contracts to 525.
This is important as many criminal firms rely on doing this work to bring in income, especially when the new clients met by a duty solicitor of the firm might stay with the firm in future as their own client. When cuts to duty solicitor work are combined with the cut to the amount paid for criminal legal aid cases of 8.75% that has already taken place (which will rise to 17.5% in 2015) many criminal firms are worried about their ability to survive.
The Government decided to cut the number of duty contracts to a maximum of 525 in February 2014. Criminal lawyers challenged the Government in the High Court arguing the process of consultation on its plans for duty work had not been fair. The court found the process had been unlawful, so now the Government has to consult again. Read the judgment from this case and our report here, with an extended version at Legal Voice here. The case generated significant media coverage, with further reports and comment on the case published by BBC News, The Guardian, The Independent and Legal Voice.
The new consultation documents are here including information on how and where to send replies.
The deadline to reply to the Government’s new consultation is 15 October but we would like to finalise our response before this so appreciate hearing from you as soon as possible.
Thank you to the members who have helped to prepare our response. This is attached below.
Do your own response - here is some help
We would also encourage members to do their own response to the consultation as well as helping us prepare one - this is because the more replies the Government gets, the more it can see this issue matters.
Here is guidance from practitioner group the Criminal Law Solicitors Association: www.clsa.co.uk/index.php?q=Response-of-the-CLSA-to-Transforming-Legal-Aid-Crime-Duty-Contracts-Consultation
Here is the Law Society guidance:
And EASY TIME SAVER: from LCCSA with a handy summary of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association reply to guide you and an email form that will send your response to MoJ!:
For non criminal lawyers