We are being invited to enter a brave new world of price competition, where, in reality, the Ministry of Justice is fixing the price and the structure of the market in order to tempt in Stobarts and their ilk. Further, we have no chance of competing on price because of the way these groups of companies are financially structured.

Is this a level playing field and a genuine austerity measure? Or, alternatively, is it a stitch-up driven by ideology (bearing in mind how little will be saved by these measures)?

Trevor Howarth, legal director of Stobarts, has described legal aid firms as ‘wounded animals waiting to die’. May I remind Mr Howarth that he needs us more than we need him.

The MoJ, in all its wisdom, has missed one rather crucial point. Criminal law (thanks in part to incessant legislative activity over two decades) is very complex. Criminal defence practitioners, even those with decades of experience, are challenged on a daily basis. The system cannot be dumbed down, deskilled or under-resourced without devastating consequences for the administration of justice.

If we are being treated with such disrespect, our only option is to fight back in a way that will demonstrate that, actually, our expertise is indispensable. I urge fellow practitioners to do the following:

  • Respond to the consultation unambiguously.
  • Do not submit a bid.
  • Make it clear that we will have no truck with Stobarts and its ilk.

Wounded, yes. Dying, no.

Terry Scanlan, The Law Chambers, Bournemouth

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