Legal Aid

LCCSA response to VHCC consultation

PUBLISHED February 9, 2010

The LCCSA has published its response to the LSC's proposals in terms of reforming the procurement of publicly funded VHCC work, developing a number of themes: -

  • The LCCSA recognises that there are significant budgetary pressures on all areas of public spending and that stakeholders within the criminal justice system must do their best to ensure that services are provide at the best possible value whilst maintaining a sustainable quality criminal defence service delivered within budget.
  • The price paid for ?lower work? (i.e. Police station advice and assistance and representation in the magistrates? court) has reached ?rock bottom? and any further cuts jeopardises the quality of justice that can be achieved.
  • The ?litigator?s graduated fee scheme? (?LGFS?) is in its infancy and has yet to be properly reviewed.  The LCCSA has strong reservations as to its effectiveness and believes that it contains fundamental flaws such that it is not fit for purpose. The Association believes applying such a scheme to arguably the most complex criminal cases is nonsensical and reckless.
  • The LCCSA accepts that if there is a need to make further savings then these must be sought from VHCC. This may mean reducing the 2007/08 hourly rates further, or it may mean coming up with innovative and new remuneration structures. It does not mean that it is appropriate to simply extend the scope of existing schemes and the Association is keen to continue its work with all stakeholders to properly explore the options.
  • If a graduated fee scheme is to be successfully applied to VHCC work, it needs to be ?supersensitive?, with many variables and escapes built-in.
  • The ?blunter? the graduation of fee, the less suitable it is for application to the work of the litigator. On this basis, the LCCSA believes that it is appropriate to consider 2 separate schemes for litigators and advocates.
  • The LCCSA believes the VHCC panel should be ?open? with access to VHCCs for all firms.
  • The LCCSA believes that only firms with a general criminal contract should be eligible to undertake publicly-funded VHCCs.
  • The LCCSA agrees that advocates should be contracted on a case by case basis.
  • The LCCSA believes it should be for the complex crime supervisor to assess the competencies and suitability of a particular advocate. The regulation of this should be via regulation of the complex crime supervisor.