Tag Archive | "Legal Services Commission"

Law Society submissions to the Bach Review

The ‘Gazette’ reports that the Law Society is considering how an innovation fund could help legal aid solicitors harness new technology to improve access to justice.

In a submission to the Labour party’s legal aid review, the Society said there was “scope for innovation” among solicitors to produce “bespoke technological solutions that reflect their businesses and meet the needs of their clients.”

Inevitably there are doubts whether solicitors could afford the investment required. “The Society is therefore looking into whether there might be scope for an innovation fund, whereby grant funders would make grants to firms that have ideas for ways of using technology to improve access to justice,” the submission states.

In its submission to the review, the Society identifies the Partnership Initiative Budget, which operated under the former Legal Services Commission, as a precedent. “We are still in the early stages of considering this idea, but our initial thinking is that such a fund might be generated from a combination of private, third sector and public sector sources,” the submission states.

The Society also suggests that alternative approaches to civil legal aid remuneration should be considered. “We believe it is worth looking again at the fundamental point that legal aid currently works on the basis of paying individually for each of millions of pieces of advice provided.”

The submission points out that “there is a precedent in the form of the old block contracting system for the not-for-profit sector where the provider was remunerated on the basis of caseworker hours rather than for each individual case.”

The Law Society also warned that civil legal aid cuts will result in an increase in costs to the tax payer because failure to get early expert legal advice can result in people’s problems escalating dramatically, when they could have been nipped in the bud.

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: “Successive governments have repeatedly cut back the legal aid budget and this review provides a crucial opportunity to consider the fundamental question of how to restore and protect access to justice for everyone in the 21st century, regardless of their economic circumstances.”

Smithers said: ‘There is an imbalance of power and knowledge when legal advice is solely available to wealthy individuals, corporations and state bodies, and not to ordinary people. There are significant cost savings for society if people can obtain expert legal advice and representation,” adding that “early legal advice can forestall an escalating sequence of problems that in extreme cases can result in issues like homelessness. Prompt intervention can also help people to find a solution that doesn’t involve the courts.”

“The current legal aid system needs reform,” he said. “The capital means test for benefit claimants and evidential burdens for domestic violence determine who qualifies for legal aid help. These are preventing victims of domestic abuse from accessing legal aid in family cases. When no other realistic option exists for someone to assert their legal rights, funding from government must be available.”

‘Technology can improve access to justice, but proposals for digital courts will not remove the need for solicitors, who play a vital role in overcoming the barriers that people face in obtaining justice,” he said.

Labour is to present the findings of Lord Bach’s legal aid review at this year’s party conference in the Autumn.

Posted in Civil Law, Legal AidComments (0)

Digital working

On Tuesday, Policing and Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green delivered a speech at the centre-right think tank ‘Reform’ on crime and justice policy.

One of the themes of his speech was the failure to exploit technology. He said: “Anyone who compares the way the criminal justice system works with any other modern workplace will be immediately struck by the terrible failure to take advantage of all the benefits that technology can bring. If you compare basic processes that take place across the country all the time Read the full story

Posted in Criminal JusticeComments (0)

LASPO in the Lords

Line-by-line scrutiny of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill continued on Tuesday in the House of Lords. Members continued where they left off before the Christmas recess when four amendments to clause 1, which defines the Lord Chancellor’s responsibilities, were debated and then withdrawn without being put to the vote.

Lord Beecham moved another amendment to clause 1 which called upon the Lord Chancellor to Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Law Updates, Legal AidComments (0)

Slippage at the MoJ – Competitive Tendering and Legal Aid reform

Last Wednesday Secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke, made a written statement to the Commons on Competitive Tendering. The proposed timetable has yet again slipped back.

He told the Commons: “The Government believe that tendering criminal defence work for competition, alongside regulatory changes, has the potential to significantly modernise legal aid provision, improve the service provided to legal aid clients, streamline the procurement process and deliver value for money for the taxpayer.” In a thinly veiled threat he said: Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Bonfire of the Quangos

The Ministry of Justice is substantially reforming a number of its public bodies. Ten of the department’s public bodies will no longer operate as non departmental public bodies or as statutory bodies. Six will be abolished and four will be merged with other existing bodies. Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said: Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Law UpdatesComments (0)

The Legal Services Commission

Hard on the heels of the National Audit Office’s highly critical report to Parliament on the procurement of Criminal Legal Aid in England and Wales comes the Public Accounts Committee’s savaging of the Legal Services Commission, the body charged with administering the programme. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Procurement of Criminal Legal Aid in England and Wales – National Audit Office report

The National Audit Office’s latest report to Parliament on the procurement of Criminal Legal Aid in England and Wales will make uncomfortable reading for the Legal Services Commission. Read the full story

Posted in Legal AidComments (0)

LSC propose graduated fees for VHCC cases – “not viable”, says Law Society.

Last week the Legal Services Commission announced the launch of a consultation on the replacement scheme for Very High Cost (Crime) Cases (VHCCs). Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

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