LSC kickstarts new criminal defence contracts

The Legal Services Commission (LSC), against its better judgement, will kickstart tendering for new six-month contracts to provide criminal defence services, blaming the Law Society for the necessity of short-term agreements.

Carolyn Regan, the LSC’s chief executive of the Legal Services Commission, said: “The LSC would rather not have to issue these short-term contracts, but we believe it is necessary due to the uncertainty created by the recent judgment in the Unified Contract judicial review brought by the Law Society.”

In July, Mr Justice Beatson ruled in favour of the Law Society holding that key elements of the Government’s controversial plans to reform the £2bn legal aid system breached European law and public contract regulations.

Earlier this month (5 September) the LSC took the decision to appeal the judicial review decision, as it believes that some aspects of EU and domestic procurement law have been misinterpreted.

This has left the current standing of criminal contracts in the balance.

Regan added: “We’ve done everything we can to make the application process as simple as possible for anyone who wishes to apply for new contracts. In due course we will consult on proposals for Best Value Tendering, which will enable the market to set the price for the work that is being undertaken.”

The application process for defence work will end at 4pm on 31 October 2007. The LSC will then terminate the current General Criminal Contract from midnight on 13 January 2008, with the new short contracts starting from 14 January 2008.