Categorized | Criminal Justice, Legal Aid

Fast track consultation

Fast track consultation

The MoJ has responded quickly to last week’s High Court’s ruling that it acted unlawfully when introducing criminal legal aid reforms. A few days after the court found that the ministry had been ‘unfair’ in failing to disclose the findings of two key reports, MoJ has announced a consultation on the findings.

In the announcement MoJ said: “We are now consulting on the reports undertaken by Otterburn Legal Consulting and KPMG (including MoJ’s response to the analysis), the findings/assumptions used in their analysis, as well as the number of duty provider contracts that should be tendered in the forthcoming procurement exercise by Otterburn Legal Consulting and KPMG…

“The consultation, Transforming Legal Aid: crime duty contracts, closes on 15 October…Ministers will consider the number of duty providers contracts that will be offered in the forthcoming tender for criminal legal aid defence services in light of the evidence gathered in this consultation.”

A formal tender process for the 2015 duty contracts is due to begin in October.

Astonishingly MoJ make no mention of the fact that this consultation is in response to the High Court judgement. In a peevish, graceless response to the Judge’s sound kicking, the MOJ is looking for a quick fix and the possibility of re-opening the contract pitching in November. What Burnett J referred to as ‘so unfair as to result in illegality’ has been interpreted by the MOJ as ‘a technicality’ which they are seeking to resolve by opening a consultation on the two missing reports as opposed to opening the consultation on the whole issue plus the two missing reports.

It remains to be seen whether the new consultation does in fact repair the extent of unfairness envisaged by the Judge. The MoJ apparently isn’t appealing his decision as they clearly think this is the quicker way to get a result.

The CLSA are currently reviewing the timescales to see if it amounts to a contempt of the judicial review. Robin Murray said: “The Q and A format and style of the further consultation is totally inadequate and shows contempt for the court judgement. The CLSA are not intimidated…and will be offering guidance on responding soon.”

Nicola Hill, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, one of the claimants in the judicial review, said: “The turnaround on this re-consultation is tight by any stretch. We don’t want to be too cynical but we really hope it’s not a tokenistic, paper exercise. Rather a chance for a genuine rethink where the future of high standard legal representation comes before ideology.”

Richard Miller, Law Society head of legal aid, said: “This consultation gives solicitors in each procurement area the opportunity to spell out to ministers the reality on the ground of what the Otterburn and KPMG reports reveal. We are disappointed that the consultation is so short, but we encourage all our members to respond in detail.”

Graphic courtesy of lestephs photostream.

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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