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More support for criminal solicitors, Law Society pledges

1st Aug 2014

The Law Society has made a pledge to provide fresh support for solicitors dealing with criminal law. This comes after its governing council recently met to discuss a request made by practitioner bodies, asking for financial support for a legal challenge to the government’s consultation on legal aid reforms.

This was agreed to by the council, and a proposal has now been issued to the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) and the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) from Desmond Hudson, chief executive. It suggests mediation between the two groups, with the option for the Law Society to be involved with said mediation. The Law Society has offered to fund the costs of the mediation, up to £30 000.

If mediating is found to be ineffective, the Law Society has also agreed to pay a sum of £45 000 by way of financial support, which would enable the groups to move forward with litigation if permission is granted for judicial review.

The major grievance of the LCCSA and the CLSA is a claim that accountancy firm KPMG prepared an economic report for the Ministry of Justice, which was ‘unfairly and unlawfully’ withheld by the ministry until consultations over cuts to legal aid had ended. As the report was not released to the appropriate consultative parties, the process was deemed to be unfair.

The council has released a statement, saying it recognises the ‘deep concern’ of criminal law practitioners at decisions made by the Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, and suggested that the Law Society could help by funding the mediation efforts.

Nicholas Fluck, president of the Law Society, stated that they are ‘acutely aware of the potential devastation facing criminal law solicitors’ and the council has ‘sent a clear message that the Society will do all in its power to support them’.