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14 September 2022

Duty solicitor rejections under challenge

2 mins

In October 2021, the LAA began a non-competitive procurement exercise for contracts to deliver criminal legal aid services from 1 October 2022. The Crime Contract includes work advising and representing those detained at a police station either on an ‘own client’ or ‘duty’ basis.

Once awarded a contract, law firms can apply to be on the relevant duty rota for the area in which their office is based.

Bindmans’ clients submitted CRM12s within the prescribed deadline demonstrating their solicitors wanted to join the rotas, but the LAA rejected them because of administrative errors. The firms were only made aware of their omission from the rotas when they were published. The errors could have been corrected within the deadline, had the firms been alerted to them. It appears that many firms were alerted and asked to correct errors, but some were not.

It is far from clear why the LAA was unwilling to exercise the discretion it undoubtedly has to maximise the number of duty solicitors working on the schemes. As Lord Bellamy recently concluded in his criminal legal aid review, ever declining numbers of solicitors are willing to cover duty slots and in some parts of the country, the system is under extreme strain.  

If the LAA have denied your firm a slot on the duty rotas and you want to discuss the legal implications, please do contact us as soon as possible because there are tight timetables associated with issuing a claim.

Alongside John Halford, Salima Budhani and Jessie Brennan, were also involved in this case.

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