Friday, 29 January 2016

The End of Two Tier

Wainwright & Cummins were delighted to hear the news yesterday of the scrapping of the two-tier criminal contracts, in a written statement to Parliament by Lord Chancellor Michael Gove. Mr Gove has clearly listened to the concerns of the legal profession, and made a no doubt difficult and courageous decision.

However, this is not the end of the debacle. All firms that tendered for a duty contract, whether successful or not, spent time and money putting together bids for a tender process that was ultimately abandoned. Some firms that were successful in their duty contract bid then spent more money on preparing for the commencement of the contracts, including taking more staff on board, investing in IT infrastructure, and in some cases even planning to open new offices. On the other side, many firms that were unsuccessful in duty contract bids spent large amounts of money on litigating the tender process, both in the form of individual public procurement challenges as well as a Judicial Review. This doomed process, then, has racked up enormous expenditure – to be borne both by criminal legal aid firms, which are hardly flush at the best of times, and by the public purse, despite austerity – in order to land us back where we were before: continuing with the 2010 standard crime contracts.

The only person who might be said to have come out of this well is in fact Mr Gove himself. Although it took rather too long for him to figure out that two tier was not viable – after all, he inherited it from his predecessor Mr Grayling last May – he got there in the end. And as many commentators have pointed out, and indeed as has been said in this blog, Mr Gove appears to be focusing much of his energies as Lord Chancellor into overturning the policies of Mr Grayling; and this has been enthusiastically welcomed by the legal profession. Long may he continue to do so.


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