On 9 April 2013 the government published proposals to reform criminal legal aid with the aim of saving over £220m per year.
To achieve these savings the consultation proposes some changes in scope (prison law cases are removed and it is made harder to obtain legal aid for judicial reviews), cuts to advocacy fees for public-law family cases and introduces a new financial eligibility threshold above which a defendant would not receive legal aid in the Crown Court.
However, the primary mechanism for achieving savings is a fresh proposal for price-competitive tendering.
The Law Society’s assessment of the proposals – based on interviews with members and our knowledge of the whole market – is that as currently drafted they will fail to achieve these aims, particularly in the short timeframe envisaged by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
We have raised our concerns directly with the lord chancellor and are in continuing dialogue with the MoJ. We are also informing parliamentarians about the potentially serious detrimental impact of the proposals on the criminal justice system.
This campaigner briefing – prepared by the Government and Parliamentary Affairs and Legal Aid teams – describes how you can aid this process by responding to the consultation and lobbying your local MP directly.