York solicitors have given a mixed response to the decision of Justice Secretary Michael Gove to abandon controversial criminal legal aid reforms.
He stopped the "dual contract" plan to cut by about two-thirds the number of solicitors' firms who could receive legal aid as duty solicitors in police stations and at court and froze for 12 months from April 1 the second 8.7 per cent cut in legal aid fees in two years.
Julian Tanikal of Latham Tanikal Solicitors said: "We welcome Mr Gove's removal of dual contracting.
"It was a flawed idea which would have led to a system where only the rich could guarantee quality representation. Worse still it was tendering at its worst and most incompetent. We feel sorry for those firms, staff and families who have had to suffer the uncertainty brought about by this farce.
"Hopefully we can now return to a system in which people can choose representation based on reputation and quality, good old market competition. We are lucky in York that there are good firms to choose from with good reputations whose clients can rely upon to provide quality representation."
His firm was not among those who received a duty solicitor contract under the new scheme.
Robertson's Solicitors and M&A Solicitors, working together, received three of the eight North Yorkshire contracts as well as contracts in West Yorkshire and Humberside.
Craig Robertson of Robertson's said: "It seems extremely disappointing that because of a very vocal challenge from 99 unsuccessful firms nationwide, the Government has decided to abandon the scheme, after spending several million to bring it in."
Damien Morrison of M&A said: "The application procedure was extremely rigorous, with our separate applications both being in excess of 50,000 words each, and taking weeks of work to properly put together."
Kevin Blount, of Howard & Byrne Solicitors, which also received a duty solicitor contract, said: "A lot of firms have been forced to invest considerable time and effort in applying, and around the country there has been a lot of heartache caused by the process, but ending it still leaves firms carrying 17.5 per cent cuts until April - cuts the Government's own advisors said were unsustainable for many firms."
The Ministry of Justice is currently facing 99 legal challenges and a judicial review over the dual contract plans. Under the old scheme 1,600 criminal law firms received legal aid, but only 527 contracts were available under the new scheme for duty solicitors.