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Legal Aid Scheme

Justice written question – answered on 11th February 2009.

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Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Labour, Great Grimsby

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many firms undertook criminal legal aid work in (a) 2002 and (b) 2008.

Photo of Shahid Malik Shahid Malik Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice

The number of contracts held between the Legal Services Commission and solicitors' offices to provide legal aid under the General Criminal Contract was 2,909 at 31 March 2002. At 31 March 2008 the number of contracts held was 2,230. These figures do not include former providers with claims yet to be paid or those completing existing cases but not taking on new work.

Before the introduction of the Unified Contract for crime work in July 2008, solicitor firms practising from more than one office needed to hold a separate contract for each office that provided legal aid. However, from 14 July 2008 there were 1,799 providers contracted under the new contracts to offer criminal legal aid through 2,274 individual offices. The LSC has continued to maintain 100 per cent. coverage of its police station and magistrates court duty solicitor schemes through these providers.

The reduction in the number of contracts reflects the trend in the last several years of offices doing small amounts of legal aid work to drop out of the market or merge with other offices, so that the work is done in larger volumes at fewer offices. This has not affected the availability of legal aid to those that need it.

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