The Law Society has advised criminal defence practitioners to continue working on their tenders for legal aid contracts, despite the High Court suspending the government’s controversial tendering process for the next round of crime duty work pending the outcome of next week’s judicial review.
Legal challenges from the Law Society and practitioner groups the Criminal Law Solicitors Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association will be heard in the High Court on 15 and 16 January.
Richard Miller, the Society’s head of legal aid, said: ‘We remain concerned that the tender for criminal legal aid contracts is unworkable, jeopardising access to justice by risking market failure which would leave people without representation and damage the livelihoods of many of our members.
‘That is why we sought a judicial review and have supported other groups to seek one too.’
Although the tender process has been suspended, ‘we still do not know what the outcome of the JR will be’, Miller noted. He recommended solicitors ‘continue to think about how they might construct any bid they may wish to submit in the event that the process is restarted’.
An update on the Ministry of Justice’s website states that, following the injunction, potential bidders would be unable to access material directly from the e-tendering system while the injunction was in place. However, ‘all relevant documentation’, including newly published answers to frequently asked questions, would remain available for viewing online.