Tag Archive | "Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association"

Legal aid reforms and the election

According to the ‘Law Gazette’, lord chancellor Chris Grayling may not be able to proceed with his controversial legal aid reforms, even if he emerges victorious from a challenge heard in the Court of Appeal last week.

The Law Society and practitioner groups the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association are appealing against Chris Grayling’s decision to press ahead with two-tier contracts for criminal legal aid. Government plans could result in some of the most vulnerable people being denied access to legal representation when they are accused of a crime. Read the full story

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Legal Aid Judicial Review

A last-ditch challenge to the lord chancellor’s legal aid reforms was thrown out by the High Court on Tuesday. The Law Society and practitioner groups are seeking an appeal.

Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Cranston heard challenges last month by the Law Society and practitioner groups the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) and London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) to Chris Grayling’s decision to press ahead with two-tier contracts for criminal legal aid. Read the full story

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The Response Hub

When the MoJ announced that they were consulting on the reports undertaken by Otterburn Legal Consulting and KPMG they stated that the consultation, ‘Transforming Legal Aid: crime duty contracts’, would close on 15 October.

The Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) reviewed the timescale 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.” That guidance has now been published. Read the full story

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Government consultation process ruled ‘so unfair as to result in illegality’

Mr Justice Burnett was as good as his word. At the end of the judicial review hearing he said he hoped to have judgment ready ‘as soon as possible’ and ‘all being well’ by the end of the month. Last Friday saw his judgement.

And what a judgement. Referring to two economic reports, one from Otterburn Consulting and the other from accountants KPMG, he said: “In the context, in particular, of a decision which would so profoundly affect the way in which the market in criminal legal aid operates, indeed pose a threat to the continued existence of many practices, in my judgment it was indeed unfair to refuse to allow those engaged in the consultation process to comment upon the two reports. Read the full story

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Family courts system at breaking point

The family courts system is at breaking point due to delays caused by unrepresented litigants and overstretched judges according to Resolution, the body that represents lawyers and professionals in divorce hearings.

Jo Edwards, a solicitor and the newly appointed chair of Resolution, fears that a two-tier system of justice is emerging where private clients opt out of overcrowded, slow-moving public courts in favour of private arbitration hearings.

Cuts to legal aid have deprived separating couples of funding for representation and legal advice, leaving them to navigate their own way through the courts as they attempt to reach settlements on complex, emotional issues of child custody and division of family assets. People representing themselves and deriving no real guidance tend to bring along more supporters, increasing the number of “raised voices” in family courts and the level of tension, she said. Read the full story

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Legal aid truce with barristers

Bar leaders have agreed an interim deal with the Ministry of Justice to end the fee impasse that had threatened to derail several major trials, with a view to reforming the payment scheme for the most expensive cases.

Under the agreement, revised fixed fees, to be determined on a case-by-case basis, will be paid to advocates undertaking very high cost criminal cases (VHCCs). Details of the individually negotiated fees have not been revealed. Read the full story

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Declining crime rates to cut legal aid bill

The Law Society, the Criminal Law Solicitors Association, the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, the Legal Aid Practitioners Group and the Big Firms Group have clubbed together and commissioned new research into legal aid expenditure forecasts. The research, carried out by Oxford Economics, shows that the Ministry of Justice could stand to make two thirds of its £120m savings being demanded from the work carried out by solicitors and barristers in the criminal legal aid system without implementing the proposed cuts.

Assuming a continuation of the steady decade-long downward trend in crime, the research suggests Legal Aid expenditure could be £84m lower by 2018/19 than it would otherwise have been, without the damaging cuts that are being proposed. The research also maintains that the belated impact of past reforms is still delivering further reductions in legal aid costs, some of which the department may not have taken into account. The projected decrease in spending of £84m could be even higher.

Des Hudson, the Law Society’s chief executive, said: “The expenditure on criminal cases has not risen in two decades and is set to shrink further following more fee cuts. Additional cuts proposed in the latest plans could have a devastating impact on access to justice and many legal aid solicitors have already reached the point of despair.

“We are proposing a better way forward, so that our members may continue to uphold the rule of law and provide access to justice to the public. We will all be poorer if confidence in our criminal justice system falls.”

Carol Storer, director of Legal Aid Practitioners’ Group, said: “This report provides the clearest evidence yet that the cost of legal aid in the police station, magistrates and crown courts is already falling significantly. Indeed, the Legal Aid Agency’s business plan for 2013-14 predicts that spend will be reduced to £1,828m, a reduction of 7.7% from the previous year.”
Nicola Hill, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, said: “What you see clearly with this independent report by reputable economists is that the Government’s numbers just don’t stack up. The Lord Chancellor claims £120m needs to be saved from the criminal legal aid budget. This report shows quite clearly that substantial amounts (two thirds, in fact) could be saved from the criminal defence budget simply by doing nothing at all.”

Bill Waddington, chairman of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, said that “the full impact of the cuts already imposed have yet to work through the system and due to continuing falling volumes the MOJ has no need at all for any cuts,” and Franklin Sinclair of the Big Firms’ Group, said: “there is simply no need for a savage 17.5 per cent cut for the MoJ to achieve its budget target.”

The ‘Guardian’ reports that an MoJ spokesperson said: “We believe the analysis on which the report is based leads to inaccuracies. If we had used this methodology in past years, we would have repeatedly overspent on our litigation legal aid budget.”

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Law Society response to Ministry of Justice consultation

Consultation number two has now closed and the Law Society has published its response to the consultation. The basic contents will come as no surprise to those who attended any of the recent roadshows.

The Society has welcomed the revisions to the Ministry of Justice’s original criminal legal aid proposals, but it continues to have serious concerns around proposals for flat fees in magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court, and a single national fixed fee for police station work. Read the full story

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