Criminal defence solicitors breathed a ?huge sigh of relief? this week as the Legal Services Commission (LSC) confirmed that it would not require them to be reaccredited in order to carry out legal aid work.
The move means that many solicitors who were passported in to the criminal litigation accreditation scheme (CLAS) are now unlikely to seek reaccreditation.
The Law Society Regulation Board announced earlier this year that it would require experienced solicitors who had been allowed to enter the CLAS without sitting an examination when the scheme was set up in 2001, to undergo reaccreditation.
Chairman Peter Williamson said he was ?disappointed? with the LSC?s decision, as reaccreditation was ?an important safeguard for vulnerable clients?. He added that practitioners who wish to remain in the scheme will still need to be reaccredited.
However, criminal defence solicitors said they were delighted with the outcome. Rodney Warren, director of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association, said: ?This is excellent news. With all that is going on with Carter and the preferred supplier scheme, reaccreditation ? which no one has ever established would be necessary for quality purposes ? would have been a huge additional burden.?
Robert Brown, executive officer of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, said: ?We are delighted with this, and there will be a huge sigh of relief that the time and cost of reaccreditation will be removed.?
Speaking for the representative arm of the Law Society, Vice-President Andrew Holroyd added: ?It would be wrong to impose an additional bureaucratic requirement on experienced solicitors at this time.?
An LSC spokeswoman said: ?The accreditation scheme is a valuable way for practitioners to demonstrate competence. However, the level of change currently facing criminal solicitors means it would not be appropriate to require experienced, passported members to go through an additional assessment at this stage.? However, the LSC will still require CLAS membership for new entrants to duty solicitor schemes.