Around 2.30pm yesterday, my Legal Tweets twitter list gurgled into life with claims that the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, had been delayed.
I also had a stream following the #LASPO hashtag and it quickly emerged with the news that a six month delay was indeed likely and that areas around how lawyers are contracted to do legal aid work were at the core of the bottleneck.
This followed a written ministerial statement from Justice Minister Ken Clarke, explaining that implementation of ‘all’ the highly controversial legal aid reforms currently going through parliament will be pushed back six months, from October 2012 to April 2013.
Having followed this story closely, I cannot help but think that in addition to the House of Lords debate of 21st November, that the sheer volume of lobbying from a committed and articulate opposition has had an effect. If only to maintain the status quo and keep legal aid on the relatively low budget upon which it currently operates for a further six months; the parties who involved themselves in the campaign against cuts have scored a small victory.
Some of the writing on the subject has been eloquent. This blog post from Simpson Millar managing partner Peter Watson illustrates a number of the least fair aspects of the LASPO bill as it stands. However, he was disappointed, saying as much on twitter this morning, to find out that Lord Justice Jackson’s proposed reforms of civil costs will probably march on unhindered. To their critics, LJ Jackson’s reforms will lead to a significant reduction in the accessibility of conditional fee agreements for claimants and as some believe it, a significant squeeze on access to justice.
Opponents may be just about out of time to push back against that particular juggernaut.