Carter judicial review settles

The much-anticipated judicial review brought by black and Asian lawyers against the Government’s Carter reforms ended abruptly yesterday (19 July) after the application was withdrawn.

The Black Solicitors Network (BSN) and the Society of Asian Lawyers (SAL) withdrew their application on the second day of Mr Justice Burton hearing whether the review should proceed.

Michael Webster, the vice-president of BSN, said that its body and SAL
withdrew on the basis of a settlement.

“The BSN and SAL achieved the goals that we were aiming to accomplish,” said Webster. “The Government has made significant concessions in taking forward the legal aid reforms.”

Webster explained that the Government had committed to undertake impact assessments of all reforms that have occurred so far and also, most importantly into price-competitive tendering.

And finally the Government also conceded that the impact assessments should be undetaken in line with the Commission of Racial Equality code and guide, which is more robust than the previous guidelines.

The two representative bodies originally brought the proceedings on behalf of the black and minority ethnic legal profession against the Ministry of Justice, formerly the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA), and the Legal Services Commission (LSC) over the legal aid reforms.

They claimed that Lord Carter’s reforms will have the effect of denying or restricting access to justice for many minority communities.

The representative bodies said that they have repeatedly asked the Government to carry out an assessment of the impact of these proposals upon minority communities but the DCA and LSC has failed to carry out such an assessment in “any meaningful way”.

They claimed that this failure is in breach of the Government’s duty under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) and Ministry of Justice (MoJ), said: “The LSC and Ministry of Justice will not be enforcing these costs against the BSN and SAL.

“Legal aid reform is essential. We’re determined to help as many people as possible within the available resources. We recognise that the changes proposed by Lord Carter’s independent review are challenging; that is why the full engagement of providers is so important. We have listened carefully to what providers have said, and we’ve already made changes to the reform proposals.”