By Lucy Caulkett-
The Ministry of Justice has today provided some details of the scope of its review in relation to criminal legal aid.
The MOJ says it plans to reform fee schemes to be reflective of work done, and to support market sustainability, limit ‘perverse’ incentives, and ensure proportionate administrative burdens on everyone.The MoJ said its review will be overseen by a cross-agency Criminal Legal Aid Review Programme Board, chaired by the ministry’s director of access to justice. The board is being advised by a Defence Practitioner Advisory Panel comprising of representatives from 14 bodies, including the Law Society, Bar Council, Criminal Bar Association, Solicitors’ Association of Higher Court Advocates, Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, Legal Aid Practitioners Group, Young Legal Aid Lawyers and the Big Firms’ Group. Launching a new vision for the future of legal aid, including £5 million of funding for technical innovation and £3 million to support litigants in person.
The MoJ is taking steps to improve the justice system and make it fairer for everyone in a time when legal costs are exceedingly high for many ordinary people. It is still a work in process, but one worth the wait. A final report, including recommendations, will be published towards the end of the summer next year.
In February, the MoJ announced a Legal Support Action Plan to accompany the Post Implementation Review of LASPO reforms, prioritising early intervention and broadening the types of support people can access. The ministry promised to move more court processes online, saving time and money as part of the government’s ambitious £1 billion court reform programme, bringing new technology and modern ways of working to the justice system. The ministry said this would include a new fully accessible online civil money claims service giving the public the ability to make small claims online and a new system for applying for divorce online, which has cut errors in application forms from 40% to less than 1%.
Today, the MoJ ministry confirmed plans to engage with ‘wider stakeholders’, including relevant experts and user engagement groups,. It said it will also hold ‘regional review’ events.
The advisory panel’s first meeting took place on Monday. The aim is to ensure justice is equally accessible by all, including those with little or no income. The absence of legal aid has long been an issue in the Uk following cuts brought in a few years ago. The MOJ has already said that its final report, including recommendations, will not be ready until late 2020, although the ministry says it will share emerging findings throughout the process.