Legal Aid

Criminal solicitors reject ?na?ve? Carter proposals

PUBLISHED September 15, 2006

A growing opposition to Lord Carter?s proposals on legal aid emerged last week as criminal solicitors lambasted the review at a packed Legal Services Commission (LSC) briefing in London ? and expressed cynicism that the commission will take any note of their views.

Lawyers warned Richard Collins, LSC executive director for policy and planning, and Derek Hill, director of the Criminal Defence Service, that the proposals did not take account of the reality of practice.

Tony Hine, a partner at Hine & Associates in Buckinghamshire, said the fixed fees on offer for police station work were ?utter nonsense? and showed a ?na?vet? about how police station advice works. He said: ?The majority of police station work is done out of hours, with people travelling from home. Travelling from the office, where Lord Carter?s principle can be applied, is just a tiny fraction of work done. Until you pass legislation to stop police from charging people at night, it will not work.?

Richard Scotter, senior partner at JB Wheatley in London, added: ?The vast majority of inefficiencies are out of our control ? at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the Metropolitan Police and the magistrates? courts. You (the LSC) have got a plan about how you are going to deal with us, but it is extremely vague how you are going to deal with the rest.?

Tony Mitchell, a partner at MPR in Hounslow, predicted: ?Our views will be washed to one side and you will choose to ignore them.?

The LSC?s Mr Collins accepted that there were inefficiencies beyond solicitors? control and noted that the government is addressing them. Mr Hill assured solicitors that ?this consultation is a real one?.

Rachel Rothwell