LAA loses duty solicitor challenge

A decision by the Ministry of Justice not to allow a defence firm to join an additional duty solicitor scheme following the decision to abandon its tender plans has been quashed by the High Court.

The London firm MK Law Solicitors, which had won ten contracts in the tender, challenged a determination by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) in March that the firm was not entitled to join additional duty solicitor schemes in and around Hackney. You can read the full judgment MK Law Solicitors v Lord Chancellor.

The LAA set out its criteria in a letter dated February 8 2016 from the LAA. The firm argued that it met the criteria because it was successful in the duty provider contract, had an office in north London, and had employed supervisors and staff. The agency argued that the firm was not eligible as they office had been running since 2012.

Mrs Justice Patterson DBE ruled that the LAA’s criteria in the letter of 8 February 2016 were ‘unlawful and irrational in part’ and sufficient to quash its decision.

A spokesman for the LAA told the Law Society’s Gazette: ‘With one exception, the judgment supports our approach to applications from providers to join additional duty schemes. We will now review our decision in relation to MK Law Solicitors in light of the judgment and the facts of this particular case.’

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About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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