2 October 2010 | Angeline Albert
The High Court has declared the tendering process for solicitors offering legal aid in family cases is unlawful.
The Legal Services Commission (LSC), which runs the legal aid scheme in England and Wales, ran a tender to try to save £100 million on a spend of around £2 billion a year.
A consequence of the tender was a reduction in the number of solicitors able to offer the service from 2,400 to 1,300.
The Law Society, the representative body for solicitors in England and Wales, objected to the tender and applied for a judicial review. Now the High Court has quashed the tender round ruling that it severely hindered access to justice for vulnerable children and their parents.
Law Society president Linda Lee said: “The LSC’s actions would have seen the number of offices where the public could get subsidised help with family cases drastically cut from 2,400 to 1,300. We are extremely disappointed to have been left with no choice but to take legal action against the LSC, which refused to acknowledge the detrimental effect that this outcome would have on families.
“We hope that whatever steps the LSC now takes will see legal aid contracts properly distributed across England and Wales to ensure all families in need have access to justice.”
In a statement, the LSC said: “The LSC is obviously disappointed by the result and remains committed to ensuring that vulnerable people across England and Wales have access to justice. We are currently considering the detail of the judgment and its implications, including whether to appeal.
“We are conscious of the uncertainty facing providers and will publish further information in due course on the civil contract for 2010 tender pages of our website. We will not be able to provide further information on the outcome of these proceedings or the impact on tenders (including appeals) in any category of law prior to this date.”