Legal Aid Change Will Not Work

Legal Aid Changes Will Not Work Says ILEX

11 September 2008 pr032.08

Proposals to reform criminal defence services through Best Value Tendering have been given the ‘thumbs down’ by the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX)

Responding to the consultation on the proposals ILEX expressed concern that questions continue to remain about the impact of the changes on lawyers and on the ability to deliver good quality justice to the public and contrary to the governments stated aim of putting quality at the forefront of legal aid provision.

ILEX Law Reform Officer Gus Ghataura said: “We do not believe the reform proposals would deliver good quality aid for the consumer and would not deliver best value justice in the long-term. We believe the scheme, if implemented in its present form may not achieve the envisaged result and may produce an unacceptable distortion to the legal aid system without resolving the main aim of reducing costs while retaining quality.

“Comments from members on the proposals suggest that the concerns they have will not be addressed in the final proposals. It is the ILEX view that experience in other parts of the public sector show that while there may be may be short term gains as the market will inevitably change and consolidate into fewer, larger firms these are unlikely to be sustained over time .

Feedback on the proposals from members showed they did not believe the evidence of a significant reduction in the number of suspects being charged which equates to less hearings and a decrease in legal aid eligibility.

“Members were very clear about the impact of firms withdrawing from the legal aid scheme for various reasons including lack of profitability,” continued Mr. Ghataura, “and there may also be unforeseen circumstances as a result of the change. It is important that any change to arrangements has sufficient safeguards built in to ensure firms do not offer services at an unreasonable rate just to secure business which would put at risk the entire scheme.”