The LSC has today published application packs for the new General Criminal Contract (GCC) that will apply to legal aid firms across England and Wales from 14 January 2008. They can be downloaded from CDS>Tenders and returned by email or post.
Any providers who want to carry out new criminal legal aid work from 14 January 2008 must apply for the new GCC. This includes current GCC contract holders.
The deadline for applications is 4pm on 31 October 2007.
The LSC say that there will be no surprises in the new GCC, claiming that they have consulted on everything that is in it "other than the necessary changes to take account of legal developments". The amendment clauses reflect its understanding of the law as it stands, following the Beatson judgment on the Unified Contract.
There are no changes to the Duty Solicitor Arrangements 2001.
The main difference in the new contract is the way firms will be paid for police station work. The LSC has set the fixed fee level by area, so that in areas outside the main cities, an average provider with an average caseload will receive the same income as now.
The LSC's claim is that firms that already have below average case costs and an average caseload will benefit immediately, and that firms that are able to reduce their case costs in future will be able to benefit as well.
In four Criminal Justice System Areas and 12 Duty Solicitor Scheme areas the LSC has set the fixed fee at 9.5% below the average.
The Areas are:
The Schemes are:
The January 2008 contract reflects the current position on Magistrates Court fees after the amendments made to the fee structures in April 2007.
The other changes
The LSC is currently considering its response to consultation on Crown Court criminal aid fees - the Litigators Graduated Fees scheme. It is anticipated that this will published next week. They have said that they anticipate that any changes to fees will mainly affect the minority of longer cases rather than the majority of shorter cases.
Current providers who don?t apply will not be able to take on new publicly paid work from 14 January 2008.