Yesterday the CLSA, LCCSA, BFG and Law Society met with the MoJ and LAA. The meeting was held at the request of the associations as a result of the continuing delay to the implementation of two tier and the recent publication of the “Enhancing Criminal Advocacy” consultation.
Two tier was discussed and the associations maintained their opposition, yet again highlighting the difficulties we foresee.
We were told the following:
- Dual contracts will be going ahead.
- Announcements will be made on the 15th October and the contracts will commence on 11th January 2016.
- The LAA say that they recognise that the contract awards are critical and life changing for many and they want to ensure they are done correctly and the right decisions are made, which is why they decided to delay the announcement.
- When the results are published, firms will be advised as to whether they were shortlisted and the points scored in their application.
- The time for signing acceptance of the contracts will be adjusted and announced in due course.
- The announcements will be made over an eight hour period and in no specific order.
- The advocacy consultation was discussed and grave concerns were expressed by all present about the content and biased tone of much of the consultation, in particular the suggestion that keeping advocacy in-house might amount to a conflict of interest.
- The MoJ wouldn't rule out that changes to advocacy occur during the life of the new 2015 contract, which of course doesn't rule out a restriction upon in-house advocacy.
The MoJ and LAA were warned of legal challenges that might arise as a consequences of restrictions to advocacy as well as the weight that the LAA had attached to scoring for advocacy on organisations tender applications.
All parties have agreed to meet again to discuss these issues further and in more detail.
It was confirmed that the suspension of the cut will still take place in January.
All parties impressed upon both the MoJ and the LAA the immense amount of stress and pressure being felt by the profession in these times of uncertainty.