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Liverpool Solicitors speak out over Criminal Legal Aid proposals

Canter Levin & Berg's Criminal Law Solicitor Richard Hughes takes issue with the changes to criminal legal aid.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has this week announced the government is opening a consultation on further cuts to legal aid for criminal cases. In addition to the cuts, a system where solicitors bid against one another for contracts to work on criminal cases could be introduced.

In a statement Mr Grayling said: "Criminal defence represents by far the largest element of our remaining legal aid spend - where we are still spending over £1bn a year."

He added: "We are working to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system as a whole, to move towards swifter resolution of cases before the courts."

If the proposals are introduced then a tendering system for work in criminal law cases would be opened to bidders in Autumn of this year, with the criminal law contracts themselves starting in Autumn 2014.

Why tendering in Criminal Law cases is a bad idea

Here at Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors, our Criminal Law team regularly provides Legal Aid-funded services to people accused of crimes. Several other departments within the firm, such as our Family Law team, also undertake Legal Aid funded work for vulnerable clients. Solicitor Richard Hughes, a Partner and member of our Criminal Law Department commented on the proposal to introduce a system of tendering for Legal Aid work:

“In relation to criminal law, the Government has tried on at least two recent occasions to introduce competitive tendering and on both occasions shelved plans, at what wasted costs we don’t know. (Hopefully not as much as on West Coast Mainline tender!!)

My concern would be that any tender process may invite the cheapest bidder with little or no safeguard to quality assurance.

Furthermore the tender process takes aim at the wrong areas of criminal law, of the £1bn budget per annum a large portion of the money is for a tiny proportion of the cases and involves complex fraud with highly paid QCs”

Criminal Defence Solicitors

At Canter Levin & Berg our criminal defence solicitors routinely represent clients in court on Merseyside and across the Northwest.  We also have a national presence allowing us to operate in courts throughout England and Wales.

Our solicitors understand just how serious being accused of a criminal act can be for you. If the punishment for the offence that you are accused of carries with it a prison term, you may also be coming to terms with potentially losing your livelihood and the impact that that might have on your family. Should you require one - we will make sure that a qualified criminal defence solicitor is available to you at all stages of the criminal process. For more information on our services call now on 0151 239 1180 and ask for a member of our criminal law team.

By Richard Hughes