‘No obvious benefit.’ Bar Council concerned over proposed dual-contracting model.

28 Nov, 2014

The Ministry of Justice response to the “Transforming Legal Aid: Crime Duty Contracts” consultation, published today, will be of concern to all lawyers engaged in criminal defence work, and especially to solicitors firms with criminal legal aid contracts. The consultation was undertaken because the High Court found that an earlier consultation had been “so unfair as to be unlawful”, since the Government did not disclose the reports from Otterburn Legal Consulting and KPMG on which it had relied in formulating its proposals.

Bar Council Chairman, Nicholas Lavender QC said: “We said in our response in October that the Otterburn and KPMG reports provided strong support for the conclusion that adopting the dual contracting model proposed by the Government would run a substantial, but unnecessary and unjustified, risk of causing significant harm to the criminal justice system. It is disappointing that the Government has decided to press ahead with that model.

In that response the Bar Council said the proposed changes would result in a massive and irreversible dislocation in the market for criminal litigators, for no obvious benefit.

Many would not be willing or able to enter into the new contracts. There is also a risk that those who obtained contracts would not find them viable and would go out of business. Consequently, there would be a risk that in some areas of the country there will be too few firms able to enter into, or remain in, the new contracts, leaving defendants with insufficient lawyers to advise them in police stations or represent them in the Magistrates’ Courts.”

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