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High Court suspends legal aid crime duty contracts process

Legal profession calls on Lord Chancellor to 'get the message'

23 December 2014

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The High Court has called to a halt the highly contentious tendering process for the next round of legal aid crime duty contracts, following an application for interim relief by the Criminal Law Solicitors' Association (CLSA) and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association (LCCSA).

The duty contracts tender process will now be suspended until the result of the judicial reviews by CLSA, LCCSA and the Law Society in January 2015. Vice president of LCCSA, Julian Hayes, said: "Another success for LCCSA and CLSA. Interim relief granted to criminal solicitors against MoJ on crime tender Grayling you need to get [the] message!"

Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society, welcomed the court's decision: "We are pleased that Criminal Law Solicitors' Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association have won this relief and are happy to be supporting their approach. Our judicial review will be heard alongside theirs in January and we look forward to working together to support the profession."

The shadow solicitor general, Karl Turner, took to Twitter to praise a "very positive result". The MP for Kingston Upon Hull East continued: "It's a bit like getting bail pending appeal."

It is understood that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will not be appealing the High Court's decision but still plans to defend the judicial review challenges in January.

A Christmas miracle?

The decision in the High Court is the latest defeat for the embattled Lord Chancellor that has already seen him lose judicial reviews into the deduction of legal fees from the compensation paid to sufferers of asbestos poisoning; a failure to consult the legal profession properly about legal aid changes; a refusal to allow legal aid in exceptional deportation cases; and for preventing prisoners from receiving parcels of books.

Unsurprisingly, the Lord Chancellor became the target of much schadenfreude on social media from lawyers, academics and members of the public alike. Criminal barrister Tom Wainwright, from Garden Court Chambers, commenting: "Great news from the High Court. Well done LCCSA and CLSA! Another lump of coal in Grayling's stocking this year!"

"Seems the unpleasant Mr Grayling has taken another hit in time for Christmas," said Chris Dale. "The incompetence matters as much as the injustice."

Andrew Fitch Holland added: "The High Court stays MoJ tender. How many times and in how many ways must Grayling disgrace his office before he's removed?"

While @seansexton58 tweeted: "The Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, suffers yet another reverse in the High Court. He is a liability to the government and should be sacked."

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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