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Society warns of judicial review over civil contracts

9 August 2010

The Law Society is “urgently taking legal advice” on whether there are grounds for a judicial review of the LSC’s latest civil legal aid tender round.

A spokesman for the society said “in the light of the unexpected outcome of the tender process and its impact on access to justice” it had asked counsel to consider the “lawfulness of the tender criteria and the tender process”.

Family firms are already discussing the possibility of judicial reviews with barristers after 1,100 suppliers lost contracts (see Solicitors Journal 3 August 2010).

In a letter to Carolyn Downs, interim chief executive of the LSC, Des Hudson, chief executive of the society, said that in East Cornwall one law firm had been allocated all the family matter starts.

He said this would mean that, in any case where more than one party was legally aided, the other would have to drive for more than an hour to find a solicitor.

“We believe that the situation in Wales, in Northumberland and in Lincolnshire gives rise to similar concerns,” Hudson said.

“We do not understand how this is consistent with the commission’s duty to secure access to justice.

“On top of that, there is the sheer disruption that will be caused to the profession, with over 1,100 firms having to make significant changes in to their business model with less than three months’ notice.”

Hudson called on the LSC to suspend the tender process pending an urgent review.

“We recognise that this may cause some disruption but we believe this is far more preferable to the major disruption and damage to the family justice system that may be caused if these contracts go ahead without review.”

Hudson said the unplanned cut in the number of firms with a contract had caused “immense alarm and disquiet” about the impact on both the public and the profession.

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