Solicitors have voiced deep concern about the future of the Supreme Court, after it appeared on a leaked list of public institutions and quangos facing review or abolition by the coalition government.
According to the leaked Cabinet Office list, nine legal quangos are among 177 bodies to be abolished, including: the Magistrates Court Rule Committee; the Crown Court Rule Committee; the Administrative Justice and Tribunal Council; the Court Boards; HM Inspectorate of Court Administration and the Public Guardian Board.
Bodies listed as ‘under review’ include the Supreme Court, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, the Law Commission of England & Wales and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Law Society president Linda Lee said it was ‘surprising’ to see the Supreme Court, ‘which forms an essential part of the judiciary's constitutional role’, under review.
Andrew Keogh, a consultant at national firm Tuckers, said: ‘The purpose-built Supreme Court, unlike the House of Lords that it replaces, is accessible to the public, fit for purpose and has a wonderful educational programme built around it. It earns its keep teaching people about its constitutional role and the part the law plays in all our lives. This is a petty-minded attack on transparency and access to justice. The court must be retained.’
Seamus Smyth, president of the London Solicitors Litigation Association, said that given the ‘enormous sum of money’ spent setting up the Supreme Court, ‘it seems bizarre, almost a year to the day after it was opened, to even consider reviewing it’.
A further eight legal services quangos are understood to face merger or consolidation, including the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Some 16 legal quangos are to be retained, including: the Legal Services Board; the Tribunals Service; the Sentencing Council; and the Judicial Appointments Commission. A new Legal Ombudsman (LeO) will replace the Legal Complaints Service next month, while plans appear set to proceed for the LSC to become an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice.
The Cabinet Office said it could not comment on leaked documents.