Society demands clarity on legal aid contracting

Topics: Law Society activity,Legal aid and access to justice,Government & politics

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The Law Society has issued a plea for clarity on criminal legal aid contracting amid speculation that the government is on the brink of abandoning the troubled tender process.

President Jonathan Smithers has today written to justice minister Shailesh Vara (pictured) calling for a public statement ‘as a matter of urgency’, stressing that the uncertainty is affecting the ability of solicitors to plan for the future.

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A judicial review, sought by the Fair Crime Contracts Alliance, is set to open on 7 April and is expected to last seven days. A hearing into more than 100 individual procurement law challenges will begin on 3 May and is expected to finish on 16 May. However, rumours emerged last weekend on social media that the court action would cease this week.

‘The Legal Aid Agency has confirmed that there is no change in government policy on this issue,’ Smithers writes. ‘It would however be helpful if you could confirm whether the policy on this sensitive matter is being reviewed… as a matter of urgency.’

Readers' comments (6)

  • Sadly the days when the government of the day would be rocked by a demand from the Law Society are long gone. The anti-solicitor narrative has become too strongly entrenched and power and prestige has drained away.

    I heard a radio broadcast the other week and a doctor was complaining bitterly that over recent years his colleagues had suffered red tape, constant interference and general attacks on their professionalism. Sound familiar?

    The BMA provides an example of an organisation promoting professionalism and promoting its members.

    The current strategy for solicitors is the modern equivalent of pointing lances at windmills and is about as effective.

    What is required is a fundamental change of direction by the Law Society which is very overdue.

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  • Or an alternative to the LS? We should never have allowed any form of engagement with 2tt and the Govts that have imposed in on us.

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  • Frankly, it would be best if LS kept out of it and said nothing. Its contributions to the issue of legal aid contracting have been at best pointless and at worst highly damaging to both LA and the profession.
    Any climb-down by the MOJ will be a result of the current JR proceedings, not the impotent squawking of the LS.

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  • In 34 years I cannot recall TLS doing anything constructive for criminal lawyers. In 1994 was it when LA franchising first appeared, the firm in which I had been a partner for 10 years (I am no longer; they gave up legal aid work years ago),considered applying for a franchise. We were against the whole principle, fearing, rightly as it turned out, that this was the thin end of an already micro-thin wedge. However the LAA/LSB, or whatever they were then, made it plain that early applicants would get an easier ride than those who applied later. We spoke to TLS, asking if there was any prospect of getting a head of steam up to resist the scheme. We were told not, so went ahead. When the second tranche of firms applied 18 months later, we were surprised to learn that TLS were considering advising those applicants not to sign a contract!.Another TLS special, involving horses cantering off with the stable doors on their backs!

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  • Is there any mechanism whereby we can dissolve TLS?

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  • Simon Gwynne20 January 2016 03:30 pm

    The thin edge of the wedge was understood, even without the hindsight we now enjoy.
    We had no choice, we engaged, and we are where we are (some of us retired).
    They want to control the sector. They are the paymasters. It will be so.

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