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Crime Consultation Launched today 9 April 2013 to 4th June 2013

Crime - Consultation Launched today - 9 April 2013 to 4th June 2013 - not quite Carter YET - but heading that way!
Crime doesn't pay is a cliché, and one that wasn't designed for those solicitors or barristers who support the Criminal justice process, but rather those who commit crime. Nevertheless, criminals are shortly not the only ones not to be rewarded for their efforts...
The MOJ have today published their proposals for "Transforming Legal Aid" in England and Wales.
The proposals include;
• Reform of Prison Law e.g. removal of treatment cases from scope
• A household disposable income eligibility threshold
• Introduction of Price Competitive Tendering (except VHCC)
• Reduction in Fees for Crown Court Advocacy and VHCC (litigation and advocacy)
• Restructuring of the Advocacy Graduated Fees Scheme to reduce guilty plea, cracked trial and basic trial fee rates to the "cracked trial rate"
• Reduction in trial rates and tapering of them from Day 3 of a trial
• Reduction in the VHCC rate by 30%
• Changed litigator contracts which require greater support to counsel from the litigation team
• Introduction of a "more robust and consistent" decision-making system
• Expert Fees to be reduced by 20%
Crime firms will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief that (in Chapter 4) the MOJ has rejected a sole National Provider model of competitive tendering but will take little comfort from the stated reason for this, namely that existing providers would at "this stage" be unable to scale up to the level required. A Regional Provider model is rejected on similar grounds. The procurement area will effectively in the majority of cases be the CJS area.
However, it is clear that "Shifting of Volumes", anticipated by Carter, to a smaller number of larger firms in each CJS area is one of the aims of the exercise. This is evident from the statement in paragraph 4.66 that the approach would lead to a significant reduction number of contracts in each procurement area. The illustrative reduced number of contracts shown in the following table will cause some small firms to immediately re-think their strategy or give up Crime.
Extract from Table 4 (to illustrate)
Proposed Procurement Areas (Wales) Number of Contracts Proposed
Dyfed Powys 4
Gwent 4
North Wales 4
South Wales 9
Proposed Procurement Areas (England)
Avon Somerset & Gloucestershire (now combined) 12
Devon & Cornwall 10
Kent 5

The work in the area would be shared equally between successful bidders. However the PDS would remain and therefore would take a 1/9th share of South Wales work and 1/12th of the Avon Somerset and Gloucestershire work.
To be eligible to tender the PQQ would require:
• SRA (or other legal sector regulator) authorisation of the organisation and any agents by contract start date of June 2014
• SQM or LEXCEL accreditation by a time to be specified
• No confirmed CAT 4 or 5 Peer Review. Also a Peer Review of at least CAT 3 within 9 months of service commencement date
• Have or commit to have accessible premises that are compliant with the Equality Act 2010 requirements
• Have or commit to have and use a CJS Secure Email Account to accept service of electronic evidence
The proposed Tendering Timetable:
PQQ - Oct to Nov 2013
ITT - Feb to March 2014
Contracts awarded - June 2014
Service Commences - September 2014
We intend to publish further detailed updates and run courses on the proposals and what firms should be doing in the coming weeks and months.
We anticipate that our next article will relate to the price bid and price caps. For the moment it may be worth mentioning that the Legal Aid Agency would in the event of the submission of "an abnormally low bid" (not defined) require the organisation to provide detailed information on how the price bid was sustainable for the firm. Firms should start thinking about this now.
For further information visit the MOJ website