3 October 2014
The high court has ruled that the government acted illegally in the consultation process carried out before the cuts.
The Ministry of Justice had denied those involved in the consultation process access to reports by accountants KPMG and Otterburn. These reports were the basis for the decision of how many contracts for criminal advisory work would be available to solicitors firms.
Mr Justice Burnett held that the process was therefore illegal, ruling that the “broad indications given in the consultation paper of the considerations which would determine the outcome did not, in my judgment, enable consultees meaningfully to respond. Something clearly did go wrong. The failure was so unfair as to result in illegality.”
Bill Waddington, chairman of the The Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA), who brought the case, said, “[This] is a damming indictment of the lord chancellor, Chris Grayling. The head of our world-renowned justice system must act fairly, instead he has attempted to enact a plan that is manifestly unfair. Limiting access to justice and shredding the treasured principle of equality before the law,” Waddington said.
The 1,600 law firms undertaking duty solicitor work at the moment is due to be reduced to 525 under the cuts to legal aid of £220 million.