Categorized | Criminal Justice, Legal Aid

The future of criminal defence services

The future of criminal defence services

Consultations are like buses. There must be one well on its way because two have just arrived at the same time.

On Monday, MoJ issued a consultation document which sets out the government’s proposals for further reform of the legal aid system in England and Wales. The expressed aim of the proposals is to deliver savings of £220 million per year by 2018/19. At its launch, justice secretary Chris Grayling said: “We have an excellent tradition of legal aid and one of the best legal professions in the world. But we cannot close our eyes to the fact legal aid is still costing too much. I am clear we will continue to uphold everyone’s right to a fair trial but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look again at how the system which provides this is operated.”

This document is a 164 page hatchet job. If the full text is too much for you, at least read chapter 4. See how by mathematical sleight of hand 1600 firms can be reduced to a mere 400. Grayling is the first Lord Chancellor in modern times who is not a lawyer, and it shows.

On 5 April the Law Society issued a consultation paper inviting the profession’s views on a number of alternatives to price competitive tendering for criminal legal aid. The purpose of the consultation paper is to give Law Society members an opportunity to contribute to shaping the vision and strategy of the Society in relation to future tendering for criminal legal aid services.

Law Society president, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, said: “The stark reality is that whatever arguments we put forward against competitive tendering, we are told savings will be required. However wrong we may feel this to be, the fact is that Government is committed to making savings and there will be less money available for criminal legal aid.

“This is why we need to seize the initiative and present our own ideas for a future vision of how criminal legal aid could work. Whatever new procurement model emerges from this process, there will be winners and losers. The Law Society is committed to trying to find a solution which will result in the fewest number of losers possible.”

Precisely because the future looks grim it is vitally important that everyone makes a contribution to these consultations. The MoJ paper ‘Transforming legal aid: delivering a more credible and efficient system’ is at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/consultations/transforming-legal-aid.pdf and the consultation closes on 4 June.

The Law Society paper ‘Procuring criminal defence services: is there a better way?’ is at: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/stories/consultation-procuring-criminal-defence-services/ and the consultation closes on 10 May.

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.

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