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Carter Legal Aid Reforms

Date:14 JUL 2006

The consultation paper, Legal Aid: a sustainable future was published jointly by the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Legal Services Commission (LSC) on 13 July 2006. It sets in motion a radical reform of the legal aid system. The consultation programme began immediately after the publication on the same day of the final report of the independent review of legal aid procurement chaired by Lord Carter of Coles.

Proposals include introducing, from April 2007, fixed and graduated fees for a wide variety of civil and family work; the introduction of a new fixed fee scheme in police stations; changes to standard fees for Magistrates' Court cases; an extension of the Graduated Fee Scheme to litigators in the Crown Court and a unified LSC contract for solicitor and not-for-profit providers. Unlike the crime proposals, which are set out in detail in Lord Carter's report, the proposals for civil, family and immigration legal aid are set out in detail in the consultation paper. Subject to the outcome of the consultation, all the family remuneration schemes proposed will become operational from April 2007 and all the schemes will eventually apply to all our providers. The fundamental principles are as follows:

  • The introduction of fixed and graduated fee schemes to replace hourly rates and tailored fixed fees in family work;
  • Eventually the schemes will apply to all providers including not for profit organisations that hold contracts;
  • There will be separate payments for disbursements, with some exceptions;
  • The statutory charge should no longer apply to any recovery or preservation of property at the Legal Help level.

The consultation paper, Legal Aid: a sustainable future is available from the DCA website at: http://www.dca.gov.uk/consult/confr.htm. Lord Carter's Final Report of the Independent Review into Legal Aid Procurement is available at: http://www.legalaidprocurementreview.gov.uk/publications.htm.  The consultation process ends on 12 October 2006.