The Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, visited the Stockton Heath office of FDR Law on Friday 28 June to hear the views of partners on a wide range of legal topics.
The session was scheduled as part of a day-long visit to Warrington and within the meeting the firm’s Head of Criminal Law, Gary Heaven, presented arguments in favour of allowing those arrested and charged before the court to choose their own solicitor.
The Government published a consultation paper in April proposing, amongst other changes, to allocate Legal Aid lawyers from a limited number of Legal Aid suppliers. He joined with senior judges, politicians and the Law Society in arguing clients would have no choice of representation and quality would not be safeguarded.
Three days after the meeting, Mr Grayling wrote a letter to the chair of the House of Commons Justice Committee, Sir Alan Beith, to say he had decided to maintain the status quo.
Mr Grayling declared that after listening to the views of the Law Society and others: “I am looking again at this issue and expect to make changes to allow a choice of solicitor for clients receiving criminal legal aid.”
Also putting forward views on a wide range of legal topics were fellow partners Norman Banner, Deborah Hodd, John Spittle and Jennifer Roulston. They told him that major reductions in the legal aid scheme, introduced in April, now mean many people are unable to obtain expert legal help with family matters, such as divorce, or compensation for injuries or professional negligence. Warrington was also struggling to deliver swift and affordable justice because of the overcrowded county courts, they said.
Senior Partner Norman Banner said: “We are delighted the Lord Chancellor chose our legal practice to consult on a wide range of legal issues. There are many changes proposed to the provision of legal services that affect the people of Warrington.
“Hopefully Mr Grayling left with a better idea of the reality of how the legal system is working for local people and the locally-based law firms who serve them.”
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