|Your weekly Law Society update
As the professional body for solicitors, every week the Law Society is working hard to influence the legal and regulatory environment on behalf of our profession and to promote solicitors at home and abroad. We support practice excellence, are an informed source of legal sector news and support members at every stage of their career.
Here are some highlights from our work this week. Influencing on behalf of the profession and promoting the profession
The Law Society’s media profile this week
The Gazette, Times and The Financial Times report on problems solicitors are facing with the Defence Solicitor Call Centre (DSCC). The service was handed over to a new provider this week. David Greene, vice-president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said the call centre “appears to have undergone a complete system meltdown… denying suspects the right to legal advice risks miscarriages of justice”.
Wills and Equity committee chairman Ian Bond appeared in the New York Times talking about the PPI scandal. He told the paper we may have reached the 29 August compensation deadline but that may not be end of it. The NYT reports the mis-selling scandal led to £36bn of compensation payments to customers.
Lawyers respond to calls for ‘racial profiling’ for marriages in the Belfast Telegraph. Barry O’Leary, a member of our immigration committee is quoted.
The Independent, This Is Money, the Herald and the Belfast Telegraph reported on Boris Johnson’s comment that he would send asylum seekers crossing the channel back to France. Annette Elder, also a member of our immigration law committee, said: “This is another example of the way asylum seekers are criminalised […] Everyone has a right to seek asylum.”
Gary Rycroft, chair of our digital assets working group, was on BBC Radio Lancashire (1:51:00) about NDAs and why they might be used in businesses. He also discussed our new public guidance.
Legal Cheek reported on our diversity access scheme. The scheme awards scholarships to aspiring solicitors to help improve social mobility and diversity in the legal profession.
The Gazette revealed an HMCTS blog appeared to put the blame for delays in the probate system on solicitors. Jonathan Wood, national services director, wrote: “A considerable number of applications for probate have to be stopped because we need further information or assurance before we can issue a grant of probate.” I. Stephanie Boyce, deputy vice president of the Law Society, responded: “We will continue to challenge HMCTS to reduce the backlogs and create a probate system fit for the 21st century.”
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Access to Justice
Following the news the government will be delivering a fast-tracked one year spending review on 4 September, I have written to chief secretary to the Treasury, Rishi Sunak, calling for urgent investment across the wider criminal justice system. This follows the government’s spending announcements on policing, prisons and prosecution. I highlighted that the system is crumbling, that criminal legal aid fees must be raised to halt the increasing shortages of duty solicitors, and that the criminal means test threshold must be increased as a matter of urgency.
There has been a major breakdown in the service provided by the ‘Defence Solicitor Call Centre’ (DSCC) following a move to a new service provider. We have been liaising with members and are raising serious concerns with the LAA and MoJ about this. (See Media above).
The SRA has launched a consultation on “Assuring Advocacy Standards” which proposes a number of changes which will impact on Higher Rights Advocates (HCAs). We will be submitting a detailed response and are encouraging all HCAs to do the same
On 28 August, the Law Society’s Tax Law Committee held a roundtable meeting with senior tax and compliance solicitors on DAC 6 (EU Directive 2018/822 ). Law firms will be required to comply with significant new reporting rules in relation to a wide range of cross-border arrangements under DAC 6. The meeting was part of our ongoing engagement with the profession and HMRC to address concerns as the rules are transposed into UK law.
This week the Mental Health and Disability Law Committee met with Rethink Mental Illness, the Ministry of Justice and the newly appointed Official Solicitor, Sarah Castle, to discuss litigation friends in the unified tribunals.
The Law Society’s response to the MoJ’s call for evidence in assessing risk of harm to children and parents in private law children cases will be submitted by the end of Friday 30th August.