The government’s decision to drop the idea of price competitive tendering for criminal defence work is definitive proof that there is no link with the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates, which is going ahead as planned, the Bar Standards Board said yesterday.
The Solicitors Regulatory Authority should be able to process would-be alternative business structures wanting to bid for the new criminal legal aid ‘super-contracts’ in as little as three months, it has told MPs. The Bar Standards Board was more cautious about its regulation, however.
The legal profession needs to face up to “some hard facts” – including an oversupply of lawyers – that go beyond government plans for legal aid reform, justice minister Lord McNally warned yesterday.
The Ministry of Justice today showed the first sign of cracking under the weight of pressure over its plans to reform criminal legal aid, with the Lord Chancellor ditching the plan to end client choice of solicitor.
The viability of using alternative business structures as a means to offer criminal legal services under the government’s price competitive tendering scheme is questionable, a report by consultants Deloitte has warned.
The Bar Standards Board has waded into the controversy over government plans to introduce price competitive tendering in criminal work by warning that it risks causing irreparable harm to the credibility of the criminal justice system and incentivises lawyers to encourage guilty pleas.
Solicitors and barristers will have to adjust to “the new circumstances” they are facing as a result of legal aid and other reforms “if they are going to survive”, justice minister Lord McNally said yesterday.
Plans to grow a criminal legal aid firm that has just received its alternative business structure licence – potentially through external investment – are on hold pending the outcome of the government’s current reform plans, according to its head of legal.
The prospect of barristers boycotting the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates became almost certain on Saturday after all but one of more than 1,000 members of the South Eastern Circuit said they would refuse to sign up to it.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel has strongly criticised the government’s plan to deny defendants the right to choose their own solicitor under price competitive tendering, with new data showing that legally aided clients are more likely to shop around than any other.