Carter review delayed as costs are ironed out

PUBLISHED February 2, 2006

Legal Aid: report imminent on market-based reform

Delivery of the long-awaited Carter review of legal aid procurement has been delayed, it emerged this week.

The review, which was set up last summer and was expected to report by 31 January, will now see a first report on the principles and approach to market-based reform of criminal legal aid procurement published early this month. Over the coming weeks, Lord Carter will finalise the modelling of criminal schemes, and continue to design and model civil and family schemes.

By late March, he aims to provide a full report that will include fully costed criminal legal aid schemes based on his earlier report, the design and costing of a new approach to civil legal aid, an outline of new delivery arrangements (including the effect on administrative efficiencies and transitional support), and an overall spending profile for the next three to five years.

?This timetable has been structured to allow us to achieve the maximum possible engagement with all stakeholders, so that a fully-costed final report is produced in time for rapid implementation,? Lord Carter said. ?This should also prevent any significant delay to changes planned by the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Legal Services Commission and that are in line with the final report?s recommendations.?

But Richard Miller, director of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, warned: ?Market-based reform cannot work if the structure does not take account of the potentially huge and unpredictable variations caused by legislative changes, developments in the rules of evidence and procedures, police resources and success rates, developments in investigative techniques and technology, and the willingness and ability of the other parties involved in the system to perform their functions properly.?

Law Society President Kevin Martin said: ?It is essential that any changes are worthwhile and sustainable, so the timetable for implementation must allow for Lord Carter's proposals to be properly piloted and then evaluated.?