Over the past weeks, LCCSA representatives have met with officials at the Ministry of Justice to discuss the future of legal aid provision. Yet again, our president and others repeat the argument that, for a market such as criminal defence, the concept of a tendering process is completely inappropriate.
It seems that yet another government is struggling with the obvious truth that the principles of competition law cannot underpin services in the complex area of providing for those who fall foul of the law. To help him better understand the situation, perhaps the Minister should read this issue of The Advocate.
He should consider the article by the leading probation officer, Heather Munro, in which she points out how government plans to introduce commercial organisations into probation services are badly thought-through and highly unlikely to work. Heather says that lessons learned over many years of excellent practice are being thrown out with wilful ignorance of the consequences.
By the time he has read Heather's article, he will have been educated about years of excellent practice in criminal defence work: the profile of James Saunders, who is representing the Hillsborough families, reminds us of the appalling injustices which were perpetrated before the introduction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. The Minister should be warned that, if money is syphoned from criminal defence, it will, instead, be spent years later, correcting miscarriages of justice.
Vicky Kemp's informative study on solicitors in police stations shows that, even now, there are those who push on in attempts to improve the quality of representation. The Minister should take note and invest in similar studies in the future.
It is hoped that the Minister will not take comfort from Peter Binning's article on legal aid in China which reports, as you might expect, how that country is still far behind the UK in legal aid provision.
But China is trying to improve, while it would appear that the UK is doing all it can to slip back.
Of course, as Bruce Reid points out on our back page, the UK has no reason of any sort to be smug.
And so, Minister, you have a lot to learn from this issue of The Advocate. Happy reading!