Bidding for a new criminal legal aid contract could become less stressful after the Legal Aid Agency revealed it is introducing more flexible contracts that will run for 10 years.

The current 2022 standard crime contracts end on 30 September 2025 and firms will be able to tender for new contracts this autumn.

A ‘headline intentions’ document published yesterday revealed that the new contracts will last 10 years. The LAA said this would give providers certainty and enable them to make long-term decisions.

The new contracts will still contain a six-month termination provision and providers would have to give three months’ notice of withdrawal. However, new providers will be able to apply for a contract anytime between the contract start date and final year. Providers will also be able to expand their office and duty scheme network during the contract.

Law Society president Nick Emmerson welcomed a 10-year contract, which would mean firms going through ‘the bureaucracy and stress of a tender process’ only once a decade.

Emmerson added: ‘That stress will be reduced because a mistake in their application will simply mean they have to redo the application, rather than meaning they are locked out of the system for several years as is presently the case.

‘The fixed-point tenders have often been cited as a reason why the LAA cannot make beneficial changes to the contract between tender processes. Their removal will provide more flexibility to make positive changes during the life of a contract.’

Nick Emmerson

Emmerson welcomed a 10-year contract

Source: Michael Cross

Under the new contracts, duty solicitors must be accredited under the Society’s criminal litigators accreditation scheme or be a CILEX practitioner holding a criminal litigation and advocacy certificate with rights to conduct criminal litigation and advocacy in the magistrates’ court, who also holds the police station qualification.

The Society was ‘concerned’ about the proposed route for CILEX practitioners to reach magistrates’ court duty solicitor status.

Emmerson said: ‘This would mean CILEX practitioners would not have to demonstrate the 12 months experience or have any training in how to deal with court duty clients at first appearances. We are disappointed that the LAA appear to still be considering this proposal after we had expressed detailed objections in our response to the LAA consultation.’

Responding to the Society’s concern, CILEX said: ‘Under the proposed scheme CILEX practitioners must demonstrate they meet the standards required of duty lawyers. The proposals recognise that CILEX criminal lawyers have the necessary skills and experience to assist those who require legal aid services. The proposals will widen access and increase the pool of criminal lawyers available to support those in need, particularly in areas where there is a shortage of duty lawyers.’


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