Legal Aid

The Independent Lawyers Group respond to Carter

PUBLISHED July 13, 2006

The Independent Lawyers Group (IDL) is a new organisation representing the owners of Legal Aid practices in London and nationally.
Our Group is based on some core principles namely, the independence of a legal profession, access and choice for clients, the necessity for diversity of supplier, and a fundamental belief in quality and reputation as the basis for competition.
Carter sets out the questions by which the proposed reforms should be judged (para 42) namely, will the new schemes provide access to quality services with client confidence, and will they lead to a structure for the suppliers that is profitable and vibrant.
Carter proposes highly artificial, costly and bureaucratic change.  Fixed prices will inevitably lead to reductions in quality. The near monopolies of local contracts will hugely reduce client choice, there is likely to be vast damage to the supplier base, both in Criminal and Civil work.
Short term contracts, fixed prices and fewer suppliers, will have the overall effect of threatening the integrity and independence of Defence work within the Criminal justice system.
The closure of more high street firms will exacerbate advice deserts. In summary, Carter is a very bad deal for justice and consumers.
Our hope is that the government will now reflect and listen during the periods of consultation which are promised and have regard for their own agenda of consumer choice and access to services.
For all the talk of the cost of the legal aid system the budget represents just 0.42% of total government management expenditure. To quote from the Carter teams own document 'The Legal Aid Market for Solicitors - Summary of New and Published Research' at paragraph 4, "Legal aid firms are amongst the most efficient of legal firms - particularly those that are crime specialists" The piloted public defender offices run by the DCA/LSC have only confirmed that the current system is highly efficient and low cost. It is not necessary to cut it or restructure it and particularly not in the radical and untested ways envisaged in the Carter proposals.
For further information please contact:
Raymond Shaw 020 7734 9700
Secretary IDL
Paul Harris 020 7790 4032 Edward Fail Bradshaw & Waterson
Founding and Committee Member IDL
Further information concerning the IDL including membership details can be obtained via email from Avtar Bhatoa of Bullivant & Partners at Other committee members include the Chair of IDL, Greg Powell of Powell Spencer & Partners and Richard Hallam of Claude Hornby & Cox