Uncertainty surrounds the future of the advisory council set up by former lord chancellor Michael Gove to examine ways to eliminate waste and abuses in the criminal justice system.
Within days of taking up her post, incoming lord chancellor Liz Truss confirmed that Gove’s programme of prison reform will ‘continue at pace’. However, she has yet to comment on the future of the advisory council, which her predecessor pledged to establish after scrapping the controversial two-tier criminal legal aid contracting regime in January.
The council has met at least once since its chair, Gary Bell QC (pictured) of No5 Chambers, a friend of Gove, wrote in the Gazette in May calling for submissions.
Council member and solicitor Paul Selby, a partner at Smethwick firm Mann & Co, said: ‘The first meeting was really to go through all the areas which people felt quite strongly about. There’s quite a wide cross-section of people. The next meeting is going to be a lot more specific.’ Bell did not respond to requests for comment.
The council, which was heavily criticised by the Law Society for being unrepresentative and failing to reflect the diversity of the profession, plans to make recommendations before the end of the year. ‘It would be a shame if it just gets left behind, but we will see,’ Selby said.
Meanwhile controversy over the appointment of Truss, the third non-lawyer lord chancellor in succession, continued last week. A former incumbent, Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Charles Falconer QC) said her appointment breached the Constitutional Reform Act 2005.
Truss’s credentials were also called into question by Bob Neill MP, chair of the House of Commons justice select committee. He told the Gazette that the committee would seek reassurance that Truss will ‘continue to keep up the good relationship that Michael Gove established’.