Bindmans and Kingsley Napley lead as Law Soc challenges government over legal aid

Bindmans and Kingsley Napley are advising the Law Society and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association (LCCSA) on their application for judicial review of the new tender process for criminal legal aid contracts, which is in court today (15 January).

Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Cranston will hear today’s application, which sees the two organisations seek judicial review of Government reforms which they say will make criminal duty work unsustainable.

Bindmans partner John Halford has instructed Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC for the Law Society. 11KBW’s Jason Coppel QC is instructed by Kingsley Napley partner Adam Chapman for the LCCSA, which is bringing the case together with the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and criminal firms Nelson Guest & Partners and Payton’s Solicitors.

Ministry of Justice solicitor Stuart Caldwell is representing Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling, instructing Brick Court Chambers’ Martin Chamberlain QC.

The Government reforms will see the number of legal aid contracts for criminal solicitors to attend police stations and courts slashed from 1,600 to 527 in England and Wales.

The Law Society is arguing that the reforms are unlawful and is raising objections against issues including the number of contracts and the timescale of the proposed tender.

Following an application for interim relief by the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and LCCSA, the legal aid crime duty contracts tender process was suspended until the result of the judicial review applications.

The implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act has caused widespread outcry across the legal profession, with both solicitors (14 March 2014) and barristers involved in protests (6 January 2014). 

At the bar, the cuts have already caused several sets to cancel their pupillages. Charter Chambers (3 May 2013), Dyers Chambers (16 April 2014), Guildhall Chambers and Tooks Chambers (23 September 2013) all chose to stop recruiting pupils last year, blaming legal aid cuts, with Charter Chambers stating that legal aid cuts were set to “destroy the whole notion of pupillage.”

The legal line up:

For the claimant (A) The Law Society

Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC instructed by Bindmans partner John Halford

For the claimants (B) the London Criminal Court Solicitors Association, the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and criminal firms Nelson Guest & Partners and Payton’s Solicitors

11KBW’s Jason Coppel QC, Christopher Knight and Rupert Paines instructed by Kingsley Napley partner Adam Chapman

For the defendants, the Ministry of Justice and Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling

Brick Court’s Martin Chamberlain QC instructed by Ministry of Justice solicitor Stuart Caldwell