Probable tl:dr, but here goes!
Are aware of the governments proposals to fundamentally change the way legal aid for criminal cases works in England and Wales? A link to the consultation is here:
If you can't be arsed with the 165 pages of that, a summary is as follows:
Legally-aided criminal defendants will be deprived of the ability to choose their own solicitor. A defence representative will be allocated to them.
Only providers (like solicitors’ firms, or more likely large corporations: Serco, G4S, Capita etc) who successfully bid for contracts, which run for three years initially, will be able to provide legal aid criminal advice and representation. They will succeed if, having satisfied pretty basic quality and delivery criteria, they bid the lowest price per unit of work.
The majority of work would be paid per unit, i.e. one case. Bidding providers will set their own price in the auction, but the ceiling for such prices is a deduction of 17.5% from current average costs. The reality is that to be ensured of victory the bids will be much lower than this.
In any given Criminal Justice System area (basically the counties, with some exceptions) the number of providers will be limited. In Nottinghamshire 6, in Lincolnshire 4, in Manchester 37, etc. Each provider gets an equal share of the available work, fixed and immovable. The number of providers (ie. firms) drops from 1,600 to a maximum of 400 but in reality more like 40 or so nationwide.
The proposals cover all legal aid litigation work (i.e. the solicitor side of things) including in the Crown Court.
There are significant cuts for other fees too, most notably advocacy fees in the Crown Court, and fees in Very High Cost Criminal Cases (VHCCs). These escape contracting, for the time being at least.
If you agree with me (and the vast majority of legal professionals whose opinions I have read in the past few weeks), would you be able to sign both the petitions below?
Also, if you have time, write a letter to your MP about this issue. You can use the following website to find who your MP is and write a letter using the website. I have attached a copy of a letter I wrote to my MP. Feel free to use it. Although it may need some amendment (especially the final paragraph)
In your letter, ask them to support the following Early Day Motion raised by Elfyn Llwyd MP about this issue
Some further reading has been collated by one legal blogger and can be found here: