England: UK government plans for criminal legal aid on hold
The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment on government plans which could result in some people being denied access to legal representation when they are accused of a crime.
The Law Society, the Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA) and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association (LCCSA) challenged the government on its criminal legal aid tendering process, which affects solicitors who provide legal help, including 24-hour coverage for police stations.
Law Society President Andrew Caplen (pictured) said: “If government plans go ahead they could affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society by potentially leaving them without legal representation if they are accused of wrongdoing.
“This is why we brought this challenge to an earlier High Court decision and why we are pleased that the Court of Appeal is still considering this so-important matter.
“Duty solicitors provide 24-hour coverage at police stations, so those accused of wrongdoing have legal representation.
“Criminal legal aid solicitors are critical for ensuring that those accused of a crime have a fair trial. Without proper legal representation there may be miscarriages of justice.
“We believe that government proposed cuts in the number of contracts for solicitor firms covering criminal legal aid is unsustainable and could leave some parts of the country without solicitors to provide essential services.
“The court indicated that it hopes to deliver its judgment before the current legal term ends at Easter.
“We will be keeping our solicitor members fully informed of progress.”