Legal Aid

Funding threat to legal choice

PUBLISHED April 1, 2005


Frances Gibb (Law, March 29) provides one example of the many ways in which our criminal justice system has been defaced in recent years: "special advocates" are effectively shackled from providing proper representation to clients whose liberty is at stake.

In the same section you report that large criminal firms in London have joined forces to fight the Government's flawed proposals to allow lawyers to provide publicly funded criminal defence services only via price-competitive tendering (PCT). It is not only a small group of large firms which oppose PCT. No effective case has been made to demonstrate that PCT is a viable economic model for delivering these services. We believe it will undermine the independence of the legal profession, lead to a reduction in the quality of service provision and the virtual abolition of client choice.

The Government is determined to push the policy through without any pilot to test the social and economic consequences. PCT is bound to reduce the number of firms, therefore many medium-size ones will disappear which will have a disproportionately adverse effect on black and minority ethnic law practices and clients.

We believe that these untested proposals will have a disastrous and irreversible consequence for the criminal justice system and ultimately reduce public access to civil legal aid.