The new advisory council of solicitors and barristers that Michael Gove pledged to establish when he scrapped the criminal legal aid contracting regime is today calling for submissions on how to improve the system.
The body’s full membership is not expected to be announced until later this week, but its chair will be Gary Bell QC of No5 Chambers.
Announcing in January that he would not press ahead with dual contracting for criminal legal aid, the lord chancellor (pictured) said the new council would help him ‘explore how we can reduce unnecessary bureaucratic costs, eliminate waste and end continuing abuses within the current legal aid system’.
Writing for the Gazette online today, Bell invites anybody involved in the criminal justice system throughout England and Wales to contact him if they have matters they want the council to consider.
‘The council will… consider all matters affecting efficiency, delay and waste within the system and make recommendations to the lord chancellor as to how best they can be eliminated,’ writes Bell.
‘It will draw to the lord chancellor’s attention what it considers to be errors or abuses emanating from the system itself and any it encounters coming from the professions. In other words, it will be open and fair to all sides but also blunt and realistic.’
The new advisory council will also include representatives from the Legal Aid Agency and judiciary.
Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: ’We would encourage our members to engage with this advisory council, as it is a good way to ensure that our concerns about inefficiencies in the criminal justice system are made known at the highest levels of government.’