Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 1st July 2020.

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Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what discussions his Department has had with the Home Office on their consultation on proposals for reviewing pre-charge bail legislation; and what assessment he has made of the effect of the 2017 pre-charge bail reforms on criminal defence solicitors.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

MoJ officials including representatives from the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) and Home Office officials have been in contact on a regular basis since the review into “Release under investigation” (RUI) was announced in November 2019.

Following COVID-19, the consultation deadline was extended to end of May 2020. The consultation has now closed, with over 1000 responses received.

The 2017 Bail Act changes introduced a presumption against bail, with police forces increasingly using ‘Release Under Investigation’ (RUI) powers. In those cases where bail is considered appropriate, police forces must apply to a Magistrate to extend pre-charge bail beyond 3 months.

In response to these changes, the LAA made amendments to the 2017 Standard Crime Contract to ensure that legal aid funding is available for defendants in these new Magistrates’ Court proceedings. The LAA also amended legal aid contracts to allow providers to submit a claim for payment within one month of being notified of an ‘RUI’. That claim can be reopened at a later date if the police investigation continues and further work is done.

This amendment was in response to concern from defence practitioner bodies that any delays in investigations could delay the point at which they can apply for payment for work done on legal aid cases.

All amendments to the legal aid contract were undertaken in consultation with the Law Society and other representative bodies.

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