Rival lawyers urge Eddie Stobart to 'truck off'

By James Barnes

08 May 2013 at 11:46 BST

An argument bubbling within the UK's legal profession is close to boiling over after a subsidiary of haulage firm Eddie Stobart became a leading candidate in the bidding process for new criminal legal aid contracts.

Stobart: keep on trucking Aubrey Dale/Wikimedia

According to The Guardian newspaper in London, lawyers are preparing to protest outside parliament in opposition to the controversial contracts, which would deprive defendants of the right to choose their own solicitor.

'Wounded animals'

However, the Ministry of Justice claims that the proposals are much-needed and will slash fees, reduce funding of judicial reviews and save a further £220m out of the legal aid budget.
According to the report, traditional law firms were labelled as ‘'wounded animals waiting to die’ by the head of Stobart Barristers, who added that rival lawyers has sent the firm messages asking it to ‘truck off’.
Trevor Howarth, legal director of Stobart Barristers, confirmed that the firm would be bidding for the new criminal defence contracts. He said: ‘We can deliver the service at a cost that's palatable for the taxpayer… Our business model was developed with this in mind.’

Legal aid

In a further dig at traditional firms, Mr Howarth said: ‘We at Stobart are well known for taking out the waste and the waste here is the duplication of solicitors going to the courtroom. At the moment there are 1,600 legal aid firms; in future there will be 400. At Stobart, we wouldn't use 10 trucks to deliver one product.’
Mr Howarth also claimed that solicitors have contacted barristers to inform them that they will not use them again if they take instructions from Stobart.
The contentious point in the proposal is that defendants on legal aid will no longer be able to choose which lawyer represents them in a police station or a magistrate's court, although they will still be able to choose which barrister represents them at crown court.
Paul Harris, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association, argued that removing choice will lead to a lack in quality and ‘far more miscarriages of justice’.


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