The High Court today put on hold the government’s controversial tendering process for the next round of legal aid crime duty contracts pending the outcome of judicial reviews expected next month. Mr Justice Jay’s ruling, following an application for interim relief by the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) and London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA), was welcomed by the Law Society.
Andrew Caplen, president, said: ’We are pleased that Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association have won this relief and are happy to be supporting their approach. Our judicial review will be heard alongside theirs in January and we look forward to working together to support the profession.’
The Ministry of Justice said that it would not appeal today’s decision, though it intends ‘to robustly defend’ the challenges at judicial review. ’This government has to make savings to resolve the economic situation it inherited,’ a spokesperson said. ’Legal aid cannot be exempt and these reforms are necessary to ensure a system is available for the individuals who need it, sustainable for the lawyers who provide it, and affordable for the taxpayers who ultimately pay for it.’
Jon Black, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, described the court’s decision as ’a last minute Christmas boost for justice’.
He added: ’It puts on hold the tendering process for the rushed through, damaging contracts which will do irreparable damage to publicly funded legal representation in police stations and magistrates’ courts.’
An update on the Ministry of Justice’s website says that, following the injunction, potential bidders would be unable to access material directly from the e-tendering system while the inunction was in place. However, ’all relevant documentation’, including newly published answers to frequently-asked questions, would remain available for viewing online.
’The LAA will issue further guidance to bidders in due course,’ the website stated.