Warning: Use of undefined constant style - assumed 'style' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/21/d38373406/htdocs/anyadesigns.co.uk/uppercase/wp-content/themes/gazette/gazette/functions/admin-setup.php on line 11

Warning: Use of undefined constant vid_cat - assumed 'vid_cat' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/21/d38373406/htdocs/anyadesigns.co.uk/uppercase/wp-content/themes/gazette/gazette/header.php on line 44
 

Categorized | Civil Law, Law Updates, Legal Aid

Legal Services Commission’s family legal aid tender round; judicial review

Legal Services Commission’s family legal aid tender round; judicial review

The tendering process for the Legal Aid scheme for new family law cases is unlawful and must be changed, the High Court ruled last week. The decision follows a three day hearing of the Law Society’s application for judicial review at the Divisional Court.
 
A blog posted on 26 August explained how the Law Society found itself on the horns of a dilemma when the recent tender procedure for civil and family legal aid work sparked a row with the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It is an issue that divides practitioners. Of those firms who had succeeded in obtaining a contract many were satisfied with the outcome, and some, but by no means all, would prefer it if nothing was done to disturb the result. The Society accepted that, whether it chose to act or not, a proportion of its members would be unhappy with the decision. The Society decided to challenge the lawfulness of the LSC’s decision.

As reported on BBC News UK, Dinah Rose QC, appearing for the Society, said the 40% reduction in the number of offices carrying out family legal aid work which the tendering procedure had produced would lead to serious gaps in geographical coverage of family legal aid. “We have referred to these as legal deserts, with no law firm available to undertake family legal aid work,” she told the judges. “At the heart of our case is the contention that the tendering process will have serious adverse effects on access to justice for very vulnerable groups, including those who are victims of domestic abuse, those who are victims of forced marriages, or vulnerable children.”

Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Beatson allowed the Law Society’s application for judicial review. The two judges ruled that the tendering process could not be allowed to stand because it would prevent “the vulnerable and deprived from obtaining the services of very well qualified and experienced family lawyers”. The judges said the new caseworker criterion introduced by the LSC for awarding contracts was central to the case. It gave most points to law firms with caseworkers who were members of two separate accreditation schemes which showed they were able to undertake work with children and deal with other complex family issues, including domestic violence. But the LSC had failed to make the importance of this clear in time, leading to an absence of awareness among firms that double accreditation was required, until it was too late to apply. Many highly-qualified firms were thus not given sufficient time to apply for the necessary accreditation. The tendering process was “unfair and irrational” as it “inhibited and defeated” the objective of the LSC, which was to achieve a high quality legal aid service for the public.

Welcoming the Court’s decision, Law Society president Linda Lee said that it is a victory for the thousands of families who would have been left without access to legal assistance when faced with state intervention in their family or the consequences of the breakdown of a relationship. She said: “The LSC’s actions would have seen the number of offices where the public could get subsidised help with family cases drastically cut from 2,400 to 1,300. That would have translated into thousands of people facing grave difficulty in obtaining justice – ordinary people who are already facing extraordinary difficulties. Legal aid clients are some of the most vulnerable in society and access to legal representation where required is their only hope of achieving justice.”

The new contracts should have commenced this month. In its statement the LSC said it “is obviously disappointed by the result and remains committed to ensuring that vulnerable people across England and Wales have access to justice. We are currently considering the detail of the judgment and its implications, including whether to appeal. We are conscious of the uncertainty facing providers and will publish further information in due course”.

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.

Contact the author

More articles in this category:

Leave a Reply

Be first to get Legal News

Full Name
Email *
Enter the following to confirm your subscription *
advert

Follow Us on Twitter


Archives

Article Categories

Tags

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