The LAA has extended the deadline for accepting crime contracts and securing slots on the next duty rotas by two days.
The deadline was due to expire on Monday 20th March, but many firms have reported that they have still not received their contract schedule – and so could not accept and return it.
The LAA has therefore extended the deadline until 22nd March. It posted this on its website this afternoon:
Contract schedules for organisations that have completed verification have now been uploaded and are ready to accept. Unfortunately, this process has taken longer than anticipated and we apologise for any inconvenience.
Accordingly, we have extended the time for you to accept these contracts and secure your rota slots. You now have until 5pm on Wednesday 22 March to accept.
If you have not received a contract schedule and have not received a communication from us about any further delay with your contract documentation, you should contact us via the Bravo E-tendering system and headline your message ‘contract query’.
While the time has been extended, we would advise that you accept your contract as soon as possible in case you encounter any technical difficulties.
We are continuing to upload crime contract schedules for all those organisations which will be included on duty rotas in April 2017. We are aiming to complete this today.
If you have not received a contract schedule by 5pm today (16 March 2017) and consider that you should have, please check Bravo as we may have already communicated with you about this.
If you consider that your contract schedule is still outstanding please notify Bravo e-tendering system heading your message ‘Contract query’.
If you are having trouble accessing your documents in CWA please refer to the guidance available on our website.
Please also ensure that you have set up the requisite number of ‘designated signatories’ on CWA. Guidance on how to allocate a designated signatory in CWA is available on our website.
Following recent problems in processing CRM12 forms the LAA has delayed issuing new duty rotas until March, with revised scheme membership lists coming out this week.
The 2017 crime contract contains a controversial clause in the standard terms. Clause 2.2 says:
You shall ensure that neither you nor any of your Affiliates embarrasses us or otherwise brings us into disrepute by engaging in any act or omission which is reasonably likely to diminish the trust that the public places in us, regardless of whether or not such act or omission is related to your obligations under this Contract. Any operation of this Clause is subject to our obligation to act as a responsible public body and any sanction must be proportionate.
Practitioner groups and others were concerned at the chilling effect of the clause and its potential to deter legitimate criticism of the LAA given that breach may lead to contract termination. Acting for Tuckers and Ben Hoare Bell, the Public Law Project sent a letter before action threatening judicial review. PLP has announced that the LAA has responded, saying it is
prepared to consider revising Clause 2.2 and/or making a statement to provide greater clarity for legal aid providers regarding the ambit of the clause, including but not limited to the fact that as a public body the Legal Aid Agency would not seek to rely on the clause to stifle criticism of, or challenges to, the Legal Aid Agency, the Lord Chancellor, or wider government.
You can see the letter before action here and the reply here.