Tag Archive | "Jonathan Black"

Justice secretary offers to suspend latest cut in fees


Justice secretary Michael Gove has offered to suspend the latest 8.75% legal aid fee cut imposed on criminal law solicitors.

A second 8.75% fee cut was introduced on 1 July, which prompted thousands of solicitors to boycott legal aid work under the new rate. The boycott was called off in August.

Gove’s conciliatory gesture follows a fresh round of talks last week between Ministry of Justice officials, the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA), the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA). and the Big Firms Group. A member of the Criminal Bar Association attended as an observer. 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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The Horns of a Dilemma


Criminal legal aid solicitors are at risk of breaching regulatory requirements whatever they do.

On one hand they are having to deal with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which is reminding them of their professional obligations while they are involved in their ‘difficult commercial dispute.’ Read the full story

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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 doesn’t care either: Next steps for the criminal legal aid market


Yesterday Shailesh Vara, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Courts and Legal Aid, presented a written statement to the House of Commons to confirm next steps for the criminal legal aid market.

He said: “There is a pressing need to ensure our criminal justice system performs more efficiently” and “there is no doubt we still have a generous system compared to other countries. The continuing need to reduce the deficit means that we must make further progress. We must secure greater efficiencies whilst maintaining a high quality service and guaranteeing that everyone accused of a crime has the same access to a legal aid lawyer as they do now.” Read the full story

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Criminal Bar Association vote for direct action


The election results will have brought little joy to legal aid and criminal lawyers.

Although none of the parties, other than the Greens, had promised to reverse all the £600m of legal aid cuts inflicted by the coalition government, Labour had pledged to halt the deeply unpopular tendering process for duty solicitors covering police stations and magistrates courts, as well as reviewing a scheduled 8.75% cut in the fees they receive. The party also indicated it would improve access to legal aid for victims of domestic violence and overturn restrictions on judicial review. Read the full story

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Defeat in the Court of Appeal


The Court of Appeal today gave the go-ahead for the government’s controversial legal aid reforms by dismissing an appeal by the Law Society and practitioner groups.

In the words of the judgement: “In view of the rational and lawful evaluation of the consultation responses made by the Lord Chancellor, it was not incumbent on him to investigate the current underlying facts in any greater detail than he did.

The judgment concluded that the lord chancellor was rationally entitled to assess that the “admittedly broad brush approach” he adopted at the end of March 2014 in relation to costs of bidding for duty provider contracts was a reasonable one. On the process of consulting with service providers – the basis of last year’s High Court challenge – the Court of Appeal said “it was not incumbent on [the lord chancellor] to investigate the current underlying facts in any greater detail than he did.”

The Court of Appeal refused to extend an injunction suspending the tender process. The Law Society and the Associations are seeking to lodge an application with the Supreme Court for permission to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision, and get the application heard on Monday. The injunction expires today.

Society president Andrew Caplen said: “The Court of Appeal decision is a devastating blow. We remain concerned that vulnerable people may not be able to obtain legal representation if they are accused of wrongdoing.”

Robin Murray, vice-chair of the CLSA, said; “It is a matter of enormous disappointment that the appeal brought by the Associations and The Law Society has been defeated.” Jonathan Black, president of the LCCSA, said the group was ‘gutted’ by this morning’s decision. He said: “While the appeal court has found the devastating carve-up of solicitor representation is technically legal, we and many others believe it’s immoral. We’ll do everything we can to continue the fight.”

The Legal Aid Agency has issued a statement that: “ Following the Court of Appeal’s decision today that the Duty Provider Contract tender process and consultation are lawful, the Invitation to Tender for those organisations eligible to apply for a Duty Provider Contract will continue on Friday 27 March 2015 and will close at 12 noon on Tuesday 5 May 2015.

“Now that the injunction has been lifted and the tender will continue, and we have set a new deadline for tender applications. The closing date for applications has been amended to maintain an overall nine week tender window for this stage of the procurement process. Work under this contract is now due to start on 11 January 2016.”

There was never much doubt that the lord chancellor would press ahead with his plans if he was successful in the Court of Appeal. This is a subject which is close up and personal after the many rebuffs he has received from appeal courts. Purdah will have been far from his mind. A close run thing, the statutory period for tenders of nine weeks expires just two days before election day. So it will be for the incoming administration whether or not to proceed. The Labour party has said it would abandon the contracts if elected.

The full text of the judgement Neutral Citation Number: [2015] EWCA Civ 230 can be found at:
https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/law-society-v-lord-chancellor-judgment.pdf

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