THE Ministry of Justice today unveiled its final package of criminal legal aid reforms, together with a review of criminal proceedings which will seek further to streamline the courts system.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling is pressing ahead with plans to cut criminal solicitors' and barristers' fees, and introduce a two-tier contracting arrangement that will reduce the number of firms by two-thirds.?? Staged cuts of 17.5% will be implemented in two phases: the first, of 8.75%, was due to be implemented this month, but has been deferred until after 20 March. The second 8.75% cut will be introduced next spring.
The government will introduce a two-tier contracting model, tendering for an unlimited number of contracts for own client work, available to all firms that meet the quality criteria.?? Contracts for duty work will be limited and allocated on a 'tight contracting mechanism' based on quality and 'capability to operate in this more challenging market'.??
Following research by accountants KPMG and consultants Otterburn Legal Consulting, the ministry will award 525 contracts for duty work. This is more than the 250 that had been mooted, but less than the 570 in the original consultation.?? The government has however made a substantive change in allowing up to four firms to band together in informal consortia to make bids for contracts. This means many more firms could get contracts than the number of contracts available.