A major restructuring of the criminal legal aid system in England and Wales has been wrangled, Justice Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed.
Mr Gove said he had “adamant not to go ahead” with plans to cut duty solicitor contracts at police positions and magistrates’ courts by two thirds.
He also suspended for 12 months a damaged 8.75% cut in legal aid fees.
Labour shadow justice secretary Be overbearing Falconer said the government’s plans had “descended into utter bedlam”.
The proposed cuts – drawn up by former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling – at ones desire have reduced the number of legal aid contracts from 1,600 to 527.
Nevertheless, Mr Gove said there were “real problems” in pressing on with the proposals.
By BBC permitted affairs correspondent Clive Coleman
“Duty” work at police classes and magistrates courts is prized because it provides solicitors with trons.
The reform was designed to consolidate the profession and achieve economies of scale by restrict the number of contracts from 1,600 to around 500. Firms withed rt in a detailed procurement process to win one.
Amidst controversy and allegations of clumsiness from a whistleblower, some succeeded, many failed, leading to 99 detached legal challenges.
Citing those, and a settlement from the Treasury that blow the whistle ons him more flexibility, Mr Gove says he doesn’t want the legal aid retail to face years of uncertainty and expensive litigation, so he’s ditching the policy.
It’s yet another U-turn on a protocol of his predecessor Chris Grayling, following those on restricting books for old lags, building a secure college for young offenders and scrapping of the contentious iniquitous courts charge.
Lawyers groups are delighted. Relations between Mr Gove and Mr Grayling? Quite icy.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) currently faces 99 se rate legal tests, Mr Gove said in a written ministerial statement.
“My decision is driven in go away by the recognition that the litigation will be time-consuming and costly for all rties, whatever the development,” he said.
“I do not want my de rtment and the legal aid market to face months if not years of extending uncertainty, and expensive litigation, while it is heard.”
Counselors-at-law’ associations had opposed the reforms to legal aid, warning the so-called “dual undertaking” system and cutting the number of contracts would lead to inadequate access to legit advice for defendants.
A legal challenge to the reforms was heard in the High Court eventually year – ruling in the government’s favour.
However, Lord Falconer verbalized the MoJ had been told the policy “would be a disaster”.
“This is a staggering appointment from the Tory government and represents a final confirmation that their envisages to reform criminal legal aid have descended into utter turmoil,” he said.
“The government must now come clean about how much communal money has been wasted on this doomed endeavour, so that ministers can be held fully obligated for this fiasco.”
Mark Fenhalls QC, of the Criminal Bar Association, said it had been the directly decision to abandon the “flawed plans”.
An MoJ spokesman said the UK’s legal aid methodology was “still one of the most generous in the world”, and spent £1.6bn on lawful aid last year – almost a quarter of its de rtmental budget.
“The spending over again settlement we have reached with the Treasury for the next five years causes legal aid almost untouched,” he said.