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LSC investigates suspended CDS contractor

1 July 2011

The Legal Services Commission has suspended the CDS contract awarded to the Shaftesbury Group, the successor to the initial contractor Bostalls, which was wound up last month after it became unable to pay its tax bill.

It is understood that Shaftesbury is owned and staffed by the same individuals behind Bostalls and had asked for a similar waiver allowing it, as a non-solicitor owned business, to hold a CDS contract.

The legal aid body confirmed it has started an investigation into the circumstances of the demise of Bostalls and the transfer of the contract to Shaftesbury.

“We are fully aware of the issues and are clear that the appropriate investigations to safeguard taxpayers’ money, are being taken,” a spokesman for the LSC told Solicitors Journal.

The contract with Shaftesbury was suspended with effect from Monday 20 June. In the meantime the other two CDS contractor, O’Gara and The Johnson Partnership, are expected to absorb Shaftesbury’s share of the CDS workload.

The LSC said it didn’t regard the situation as a crisis and that it was satisfied with the way O’Gara and Johnson had picked up the baton.

CDS Direct is the LSC’s telephone advice service available in police stations to individuals charged with minor offences such as drink driving. Instead of being assigned a duty solicitor, clients can call a CDS contractor for advice over the phone.

Bostalls was awarded a CDS contract in 2007 after securing a waiver from the Solicitors Regulation Authority because it is not owned by a solicitor.

Bostalls had sought to vary its articles of association, which provided the delivery of legal services as its object, so it could start importing golf equipment from Thailand.

The company ran into financial difficulties earlier this year, and HMRC, as a creditor, presented a petition for its winding up on 17 February. A winding up order was made on 18 May.

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Regulators Legal Aid Police & Prisons