The Lord Chancellor has promised to have the second part of the Criminal Legal Aid Review (CLAR) up and running by the end of the year, with recommendations due to be published in 2021.
Speaking at the annual bar conference, Robert Buckland QC said the first section of the review was ‘an example of how we all put our shoulder to the wheel and got on as quickly as possible’.
‘What I want to do is to make sure that we get [CLAR 2] running before the end of the year. We've already done a huge amount of work…We have a whole wealth of information already from CLAR 1 that we're going to use,’ he said.
‘I'm determined to make sure that this isn't a repeat performance… of types of reviews a lot of us remember from 10 or 15 years ago, and I want to get the chair of the review absolutely right. I want somebody who has knowledge and experience of practice in the law.’
Buckland added that he will have to get clearance from all arms of government before formally launching the review. ‘That can take a few weeks. Rather than me being able to switch the light on, I need to crank up the generators and make sure that I've got the power supply there – and, importantly, support from the Treasury as well.’
Proposals are expected to be published next year.
Asked whether the review could ever result in positive news for lawyers given the UK’s financial position, Buckland said he was ‘optimistic that we can create a system that does remunerate practitioners for the work that they do’.
The first details of CLAR were published in March 2019. In August 2020, the government announced a £51m per year cash injection into criminal legal aid.
On court investment more generally, Buckland told the conference: ‘In the weeks ahead you're going to see more investments in the Covid recovery programme with more Nightingale courts already being planned.
‘Going through to the next financial year, I’m making sure that we've got all the sitting days we can get hold of in order to keep on working through those lists’.
The Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference is taking place virtually this year over four days.