Unsuccessful bidders are expected to issue judicial review proceedings on Thursday over the Legal Aid Agency’s procurement process for new criminal legal aid contracts.
The agency responded to a letter before claim for judicial review from seven firms, including Kaim Todner Solicitors and GT Stewart Solicitors, on Friday.
Kaim Todner managing director Karen Todner (pictured) said there were now 44 firms behind the JR action and part of the newly formed Fair Crime Contracts Alliance.
Todner said the alliance was formed because ‘we want to embrace anyone affected by this unfair process’.
The alliance can include non-bidders, members of the bar ‘and perhaps even some successful bidders who want to ensure they have been awarded contracts under a fair process’, Todner said.
Last week Todner confirmed that procurement law challenges had been issued in 69 out of 85 procurement areas.
With claims issued before contracts have been signed, the agency is now believed to be subject to an automatic suspension under the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 in those 69 areas.
It is believed some firms have issued particulars of claim and some are applying for an extension of time to file particulars of claim pending further disclosure of information from the LAA.
GT Stewart founder Greg Stewart said his firm, which was offered one contract out of 22 bids, will file for an extension of time at the Technology and Construction Court tomorrow morning.
Once particulars of claim are issued, the Ministry of Justice has 14 days to file a defence or file an acknowledgement of service. If it chooses the latter option, the ministry then has another 14 days to file a defence.
Some successful bidders said they were 'in the dark' about what is happening with the new contracts, which are expected to start on 11 January.
Ian Henery, managing director of West Midlands practice Ian Henery Solicitors, said his firm had heard 'absolutely nothing' from the agency since being told contracts would be entered into from 2 November.
‘How can we run a business... unless we know what's going on,’ Henery said. ‘We’re just sitting on our hands, anxious to take on good people, but we dare not until we’ve signed a contract.'