The Ministry of Justice will press ahead with two-tier contracts for criminal legal aid and implement a second fee reduction of up to 8.75% next summer.

In its response to the Transforming Legal Aid consultation, published today, the MoJ said it will increase the proposed number of tender contracts from 525 to 527.

The two-month tender exercise began today. Bidders will be notified of the outcome in June 2015, with contracts beginning in October 2015.

The consultation was started days after the high court had ruled it had acted unlawfully when introducing criminal legal aid reforms.

It was specifically targeted at consulting on the reports undertaken by Otterburn Legal Consultating Ltd and KPMG in February 2014 and the assumptions used to decide the number of duty provider contracts to offer.

In its summary, the government said the new model will give firms the confidence to invest in restructuring 'in the knowledge they would be in receipt of larger and more certain volumes'.

The summary added: 'This contracting approach also gives the government the assurance it needs that those accused of a crime will have access to a lawyer by maintaining a sustainable legal aid service.'

The MoJ explained KPMG had been asked to analysis the consultation responses and compared them to evidence previously heard.

KPMG recommended the number of contracts increase to 527, but otherwise found respondents had provided no new evidence which would require them to amend its report.

The department will pay expenses for travel time over 90 minutes in a bid to help firms in rural areas.

The consultation received 3,942 responses, but the Ministry of Justice said they did not provide 'any new evidence' about the viability of the dual contract model.

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