Legal Aid

Striking out at Carter

PUBLISHED December 1, 2006

Any doubt that a battle royal looms over the proposed Carter reforms of legal aid surely disappeared this week in a blaze of combativeness from the government.

The official response to the Carter report from the Lord Chancellor and the Department for Constitutional Affairs made it absolutely clear that the government is no mood to compromise. Despite a record number of practitioner responses to the Legal Services Commission consultation ? the vast majority of which will have expressed profound objection &150; the government has offered little by way of concession, fiddling with the timetable and promising to consult again in relation to fixed fees in family work.

This is hardly going to still nerves, and rebellious criminal law specialist solicitors are growing ever more militant.

This week the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham is set to host one of the largest gatherings of criminal law solicitors in recent times. Up to 1,000 lawyers are expected and they will be considering more seriously than ever before a national strike.

It is by no means the first time that legal aid lawyers have threatened to withdraw their services. Past efforts have been undermined by a lack of unanimity, so it is by no means a certainty that the criminal justice system will be brought to a grinding halt. But if, as appears to be the case, ministers are going to adopt a hard line, then it is more likely than ever that they will find solicitors positioning themselves likewise