LCD prepares way for flexible aid consultation

THE LORD Chancellor's Department has promised to be flexible over the tight August deadline for responses to its Green Paper on legal aid reform.

A spokeswoman for the department says anyone having difficulty meeting the deadline who approaches the department for more time to respond will be treated sympathetically.

“We'll do what we can, we are keen to hear what people have to say about the Green Paper,” she says.

The announcement will be greeted with relief by some groups which are struggling to draw up measured responses to the paper's radical proposals.

At a conference on legal aid last month organised by the Legal Action Group there were calls, ignored at the time by Lord Mackay, for more time to consider such radical reforms.

The Bar is already understood to have taken advantage of the Lord Chancellor's promise of flexibility, although legal aid and fees committee chair Peter Birts QC would not comment on whether it had been awarded an extension.

At the Law Society, officials are currently working to meet the deadline, although Karen Mackay, of the professional policy unit, says that it is inconvenient.

At the council meeting last week courts and legal services committee chair Robert Winstanley unveiled the society's draft response to the Green Paper which is highly critical of Lord Mackay's proposals for cash limited block contracts.

“We oppose cash limits and we oppose block contracts and we'll say it as often and to as many people as we possibly can,” he said.

The paper will be sent out to local law societies, special interest groups and interested lawyers for comment.

The centrepiece of the society's consultation will be a conference organised with the Legal Aid Practitioners' Group in London on 19 June.