United front: National Justice Committee

Solicitors and barristers have formed the National Justice Committee to present a united front against the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) consultation on criminal defence legal aid, Next Steps.

The Committee comprises the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA), London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA), Legal Aid Practitioners Group, Justice Alliance, Criminal Bar Association and circuit leaders. The Law Society and the Bar Council will attend meetings as observers.

The Committee, which launched mid-January, meets every Tuesday.

Nicola Hill, President of the LCCSA and the Committee’s chair, said: ‘The reason we set it up is to demonstrate to the government and the Lord Chancellor that the two branches of the profession are united against the cuts.

We believe savings can be made without cuts. We have endeavoured to meet with the Lord Chancellor to discuss his plans. Unfortunately, he hasn’t yet agreed to meet with us. Currently the Lord Chancellor is meeting with the Bar and solicitors separately.’

Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor, is due to meet with solicitors only – including both Hill and Bill Waddington, president of the CLSA – this week at the Law Society headquarters in Chancery Lane.

The Committee has also asked to see reports by Otterburn Legal Consulting and KPMG on the consultation. Otterburn was jointly commissioned by the MoJ and the Law Society to produce a report on the impact of Next Steps’ proposals. KPMG was commissioned by the MoJ to study the Otterburn report.

Both Otterburn and KPMG reports are going to feed into the consultation but have been embargoed until after the results are published,’ said Hill, who wrote a letter calling for disclosure of the reports to The Times last week.

Legal aid minister Shailesh Vara, replied in a Times letter, denying reports had been suppressed and stating they were still being worked on by the companies undertaking them.

The Committee is considering what further protest action to take – see HERE for latest.

The MoJ response is expected to be published in the next few weeks, although no date has been set.

 

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