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Duty Contracts In. So they really listened then …..

Duty Contracts In. So they really listened then …..

In a written Statement on 27 Nov the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, said that he was publishing the Government response to the “Transforming Legal Aid: Crime Duty Contracts” consultation.

The consultation, which attracted 3,942 responses, was started days after the high court had ruled he had acted unlawfully when introducing criminal legal aid reforms, following a challenge by the practitioner groups. The MoJ said the responses did not provide ‘any new evidence’ about the viability of the dual contract model.
Grayling said: “This consultation was specifically about the reports produced by KPMG LLP and Otterburn Legal Consulting regarding the legal aid litigator market, which helped inform decisions on the number of criminal legal aid duty contracts to be offered across England and Wales in 2015. We have thoroughly reviewed all the responses received. As a result, the Legal Aid Agency will let 527 crime duty contracts. This has been revised from 525.

“To provide further help to firms in rural areas, we have decided to introduce payments for travelling times in excess of 90 minutes. We will also relax the office requirements in the split procurement areas and London to give greater flexibility.”
These are the only changes to the original proposal. Grayling makes no attempt to disguise his contempt for the exercise. He gives no period of grace for the timetable, which runs as follows:

• 27 November – tender opens
• 15 December – midday: deadline for submitting questions on the tender process
• 29 January 2015 – tender closes
• w/c 12 June 2015 – notification of tender outcomes
• July 2015 – subject to further consideration, second fee cut implemented
• 1 October 2015 – service commencement

Practitioner groups the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, and the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association said that they are investigating the possibility of fresh legal action to thwart the plans.
Shadow legal aid minister Andy Slaughter said: “This does very little to fix the growing crisis in legal aid and only further highlights how this out of touch government are belligerently sticking to their already failing program. Cuts to legal aid have led to justice increasingly becoming a privilege for the wealthy few.”

Law Society president Andrew Caplen said: “We are extremely disappointed with this announcement. In our view the scheme fails to meet the ministry’s own objectives of ensuring that criminal legal aid must be sustainable with enough solicitors doing criminal duty work.

“Some areas of the country could be left with no legal representation for anyone accused of a crime, depriving vulnerable members of the public from access to justice. We are very concerned that the ministry has not taken into account the views of the overwhelming majority of our members who responded to the consultation, or to the independent consultants who raised concerns about the economic impact on the supplier base.”

Our priority now is to do whatever we can for our members. We are arranging meetings with practitioner groups as soon as possible to discuss the next steps.

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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