Criminal practitioners have criticised the timing of an equality and diversity survey from the Legal Aid Agency.

The agency emailed all contracted crime and civil providers to take part in the survey on the day that the lord chancellor’s decision to press ahead with two-tier dual contracts was being defended in a three-day judicial review hearing at the the Royal Courts of Justice.

Bill Waddington, chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, described the timing of the survey as ‘ridiculous’.

‘It’s a distraction technique and one we do not need right at the moment,’ Waddington said. ‘Could it not have been done three months ago, 12 months ago or in three months’ time? Why now?’    

The LAA said the survey was an important part of its commitment to equal opportunities ‘and we need a good response so that we have accurate information about our providers’.

Jonathan Black (pictured), president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, said that he welcomed the review in principle but ‘with so much uncertainty [at present] those records are going to be pointless’.

The Law Society said monitoring equality and diversity was important for every business, 'but now is not a good time to ask legal aid solicitors to complete surveys'.

'Many are working against a backdrop of uncertainty, working through complex tender documents while a judicial review decision on the process for criminal duty tenders is pending.'