Lawyers fight ‘flawed’ aid tender23rd September 2010
A group which represents tens of thousands of UK lawyers has accused the Legal Services Commission of conducting a flawed tendering process for legal aid contracts centred on family work.
The Law Society said the process has massively reduced the number of specialist practices winning publicly funded contracts relating to family law. This will cut the ability of thousands of clients, such as domestic abuse victims, to seek justice, it said.
The two-day hearing will begin on Thursday at the High Court in London with Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Beatson.
Lawyers for the commission say the society’s case is “unarguable”, insisting it has carried out its duty to enable access to justice around the UK.
The Law Society says such a flawed tendering process will mean just 1,300 specialist firms will be able to provide family legal aid work, from an original number of around 2,400.
It adds that the Legal Service Commission brought in an unreasonable, unfair and unlawful “caseworker criterion” for the contracts which demanded that caseworkers rather than supervisors should be accredited.
By the time the commission published the new criterion, many practices did not have enough time to get the accreditation before their tender was submitted, according to the society.
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