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Law Society wins legal aid fight

Law Society wins legal aid fight

The Legal Services Commission's tendering process to award new legal aid contracts to family law solicitors is "unfair, unlawful and irrational", the High Court has ruled.

In what is a double victory for the Law Society, which represents around 145,000 lawyers in England and Wales, the court also granted an application for a judicial review on the issue.

The society successfully argued that the commission's process was so flawed, it was likely to result in "legal aid deserts".

Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Beatson said the unfair tendering cannot be allowed because it will end up preventing "the vulnerable and deprived from obtaining the services of very well-qualified and experienced family lawyers".

Representing the society, Dinah Rose QC, described the "shock" felt in legal circles during the summer at the realisation that the tendering system would heavily cut the number of specialist firms which are awarded publicly funded family law work.

The 40% cut, from 2,470 to 1,300, in the amount of offices taking on family legal aid cases would create massive geographical gaps in coverage, the QC said.

The cuts would disproportionately damage provision in rural areas, as well as many large towns, she added.

Lawyers for the Legal Services Commission had claimed the Law Society's case was "unarguable", insisting that the commission had carried out its duty to ensure public access to justice.

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