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Review considers CDS/CLS split

20 October 2009

The Ministry of Justice has launched a review, led by senior civil servant Sir Ian Magee, to consider whether to separate the Criminal Defence Service and the Community Legal Service.

Over the past nine years, according to the MoJ, the CDS budget has grown from £873m to £1.2bn; the CLS from £719m to £914m.

Launching the review, Lord Bach, the legal aid minister, told Solicitors Journal that criminal and civil legal aid budgets needed to be rebalanced in favour of civil.

“The balance at the moment is clearly wrong,” he said. “The problem is that criminal spending is demand led, but there is no such requirement on the civil side. The criminal spend can swallow up the civil spend.”

Lord Bach said one option Sir Ian would consider was whether the separate CDS and CLS budgets should be ring-fenced, so that any excess criminal spending would be met by the government from somewhere other than the civil fund.

He said that when the Access to Justice Act was passed in 1999, setting up the CDS and CLS, Parliament considered whether there should be two funds.

Lord Bach said the aim of the review would not be to cut the total amount spent on legal aid.

Sir Ian Magee was a former permanent secretary at the Department for Constitutional Affairs. He has been asked to advise on the financial management of the CDS and CLS, on ministerial accountability and policy direction, “appropriate delivery models” for the two schemes and their relationship with the MoJ.

He will report back to the MoJ in January 2010.

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Legal Aid Procedures The Bar