Tag Archive | "Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association"

Criminal Law Solicitors Association disclosure survey


As part of its campaign, with others, to ensure that both the Prosecuting authorities and the Courts comply with the Law and Criminal procedure rules, the Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA) is conducting a disclosure survey.

The CLSA has long challenged what it claims to be repeated failures by prosecutors to disclose information on time, and has begun collecting examples from solicitors to present to the Ministry of Justice, the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee and the Commons justice select committee.

The laws and rules are supposed to maintain balance, fairness and efficiency in the Criminal Justice system. The survey seeks information about experience of disclosure of evidence failings, or late service by the Prosecution, and the frequency of such failure. Specifically, the attitude of the Court when the defence have brought the disclosure failure to the attention of the Court is sought and opinion on the desirability of strengthening the requirements.

CLSA pose one particular question: “At the trial or final contested hearing, where late service of documents, media or any other evidence places the defence under unreasonable logistical or time pressure would you support a strengthening of CrimPR 24.13 so such evidence can only be admitted by leave of the court in exceptional circumstances or by S10 agreement?”

According to the ‘Gazette’ the survey, which opened last Monday, has already attracted 400 responses, with 300 in the first twenty-four hours. Robin Murray, association committee member and former vice-chair, said: “The survey shows the Crown prosecution fail, on a daily basis, to do what the law requires them to, which is to serve the evidence so the defendant knows the case against them.

“When these failings are brought to the attention of the courts time and again, the courts fail to hold the prosecution to account, which means either a waste of public money because cases are adjourned unnecessarily or, far more seriously, the defence are put under pressure to proceed without reasonable notice of recently served evidence.”

One anonymous respondent in the ‘Gazette’ said: “The very mechanism that exists to give victims justice not only fails to deliver that justice but re-victimises the vulnerable all over again…There are simply not enough CPS staff or Police to process and prepare cases properly but I believe there is also an obligation on the part of the Defence to request it and they are not always as assiduous as they could be with regard to this.”

Another respondent wrote: “That the Government neither says nor does anything about this speaks volumes concerning its attitude towards justice and the rule of law in the UK. It seems to aspire to standards that wouldn’t even be acceptable in a third world autocracy.”

One more damning comment in the ‘Gazette’: “The failure of the Crown to comply with their disclosure obligation is the norm. This leads to miscarriages of justice and defendants routinely acknowledge that the magistrates’ court is no place to get justice. This has now crept into the Crown court where the defence have to constantly fight to get disclosure… In nearly every single case I have at the moment, approximately 50, the Crown have failed to comply with their disclosure obligation and I’ve had to list the case for a mention hearing.”

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

More delay in the legal aid contract dispute


A group of 65 firms, including successful as well as unsuccessful bidders, came together under the title Fair Crime Contracts Alliance Ltd. The Alliance sought an application for urgent consideration and expedition. The High Court was to consider whether to grant permission for judicial review of the government’s tender for new legal aid contracts amid questions about whether the parties have sufficient standing to bring proceedings.

The High Court granted permission for judicial review of the government’s tender for new legal aid contracts. Read the full story

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Legal aid contract announcement


The MoJ never lose the ability to leave you speechless.

The announcement of winners of new legal aid contracts was promised by the end of September. Firms were expecting to be told last week via the Legal Aid Agency’s Bravo e-tendering portal whether they have won one of a reduced number of contracts to provide 24-hour cover at police stations. But what a cliffhanger that turned out to be. We were told Monday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday. On Wednesday we were told “soon” On Thursday we were told “by the end of the week.” Read the full story

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Deadline for legal aid bid survey extended by three weeks


The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) has asked firms to confirm their willingness to withdraw their bids for the government’s new contracts to provide 24-hour cover at police stations, to commence on 11 January next year, “if sufficient bidding firms in that area indicated they would do the same.”

It has also asked for confirmation from bidders which it said “have already reached a decision to refuse their tender offer” as well as firms that have not submitted bids. Read the full story

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Lawyers suspend legal aid action


On Friday 21 August Bill Waddington of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) and Jon Black of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) issued a joint statement.

It stated: “For 52 days Solicitors and Barristers across the country have stood firm against the second cut. In recent weeks, the leaders of the Practitioner Groups have had the opportunity to engage with the MoJ and by so doing, have been able to provide ideas for long term savings as a direct alternative to a cut in rates. Read the full story

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Legal aid contract bids could be withdrawn


As the MoJ prepares to announce the outcome of its tender process for new legal aid contracts, the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) said some firms would be willing to withdraw their bids should others be willing to do the same.

In a message to members, the LCCSA committee said: “Many of us felt compelled to submit a bid for a contract but did so with little, if any, enthusiasm. In the past six weeks members have told us that, given the right circumstances they would withdraw their bids.

“We understand from informal soundings in meetings with London members that there is a belief that the great majority of solicitor firms who have submitted bids would withdraw them if they could be confident that other firms would act in a similar manner.”

The LCCSA has asked firms to confirm their willingness to withdraw their bids “if sufficient bidding firms in that area indicated they would do the same.” The practitioner group has also asked for confirmation from bidders which it said ‘have already reached a decision to refuse their tender offer’ as well as firms that have not submitted bids. The deadline for responses is 28 August.

“Subject to the degree of progress made in discussions with [the government], we may at any time contact all those indicating an intention to withdraw their bid or refuse an offer, to seek reconfirmation of their intention and to seek authority of the managing partner/director as to whether the firm consents to their name and/or their response being disclosed and to whom such information may be disclosed,” the LCCSA said.

Representatives from the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA), London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) and the Big Firms Group (BFG) met ministry officials again this week.

The CLSA and LCCSA said the groups presented four options for the ministry and Legal Aid Agency to consider ‘in terms of alternative savings’ to the second fee cut. “It is right to say that these proposals were very well received and that there was a recognition of a financial benefit long term and not just over a three-month period,” the groups said.

“The three organisations made it clear that if the lord chancellor was to suspend the cut on a long-term basis that they would continue with engagement to suggest other substantial savings not limited to the legal aid budget.”

The nationwide legal aid boycott is expected to continue and justice secretary Michael Gove is to be briefed on the four savings options next week. Though the CLSA and LCCSA’s statement suggested progress on the fee cut, the MoJ made it clear that the lord chancellor will continue to press ahead with plans to reduce the number of contracts for solicitors providing 24-hour cover at police stations from 1,600 to 527.

The CLSA and LCCSA welcomed the ministry and LAA’s suggestion that, should current talks resolve in a ‘satisfactory outcome’, the government ‘would want to continue the engagement with the associations in respect of other matters.

Photo courtsesy of Commons Wikimedia

Posted in Criminal JusticeComments (0)

Barristers join legal aid boycott


The nationwide boycott over the government’s legal aid cuts gathered momentum as criminal barristers officially joined solicitors in their protest. A ballot by the Criminal Barristers Association (CBA) saw a narrow majority of 55% in favour of the action.

The CBA met last Monday evening and reaffirmed its support for the protest. A spokesperson said: “The members of the CBA voted in July to take action against the latest cut in legal aid fees by adopting no returns and not taking instructions.” Read the full story

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Big firms support legal aid protest action


The Big Firms Group, an alliance of over 30 large criminal legal aid firms that do around 25% of criminal legal aid work, said it would support individual direct action after a meeting held last week. Members of the Big Firms Group have sought advice from Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC on the action.

Bill Waddington, chair of the CLS, said the Big Firms Group’s decision sends out the ‘strongest signal’ that the legal profession has had enough of the government’s legal aid policy, which he said was driving legal aid firms and their staff into financial ruin. Read the full story

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Gove to challenge the “dangerous inequality at the heart of our system”


In a speech given today at the Legatum Institute, justice secretary Michael Gove said that there will be further court closures as he seeks to build a more efficient and streamlined justice system.

The government is reviewing the existing court estate and will shut those that are not running close to capacity. The government closed 142 courts in the last parliament. “It makes more sense to deliver a more efficient court estate than, for example, make further big changes to the legal aid system,’ he said. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Legal aid cuts “threat to democracy”


More than 100 judges, peers, prominent lawyers and doctors working in the civil and criminal justice system have called on the incoming government to restore legal aid to prevent “widespread miscarriages of justice.”

In an open letter to the ‘Guardian’ last Saturday, the signatories – who include former appeal court judges, a chief inspector of prisons and a reviewer of terrorism legislation – condemn cuts made by the coalition government for depriving “hundreds of thousands of people” access to justice. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal JusticeComments (0)

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