The Law Society has agreed to provide the secretariat for the new Law Council of Wales and to facilitate its establishment.
The Commission on Justice in Wales, led by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, had recommended as a priority the creation of the Law Council to be a “voice for legal Wales” – an umbrella body which would also promote collaborative working and provide shared resources for those working in the Welsh environment.
In a written statement to the Welsh Assembly / Senedd Cymru, Jeremy Miles MS, Counsel General and Minister for European Transition, said: “It is important that the Law Council is independent from government, but I committed to facilitate its inception by bringing together potential participants and seeking to ensure it was established on a stable and sustainable footing.”
He said the agreement of the Law Society was “an important contribution to the sector as a whole, going beyond the solicitors which the Law Society represents, and will allow the Council to meet, establish its own terms of reference and ways of working, and set its own agenda”.
The Law Society’s Welsh office will provide secretariat support for the Council.
Mark Evans, chair of the Law Society’s Wales committee, said: “My tenure as the chair of the Wales committee of the Law Society has coincided with a highly challenging time for the legal profession in Wales including unprecedented demands for legal advice and support – in particular as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year.
“Throughout the pandemic, our team in the Wales office have worked closely with Welsh government officials and the profession has received tremendous support from the Counsel General.”
In his statement Counsel General Miles noted that following the outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020, the Welsh Government had had to take the difficult decision to pause most work on taking forward the recommendations of the Commission on Justice in Wales.
He said, however, that he welcomed confirmation from the Lord Chancellor in person to ministers and at the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee in the Senedd that the UK Government remained willing to have discussions on the report from the Commission.
Miles said the pandemic had “shown the clear need for the Welsh Government to develop justice policies despite it not receiving any funding for that purpose and often not being in possession of the necessary information about performance in the justice system.
“The experience of the pandemic has also shown that, contrary to what some defenders of the status quo have previously argued, police, courts and most importantly the public in Wales are capable of understanding and managing situations where the criminal law varies between Wales and England.”
He added that, if re-elected, the Welsh Government would take forward the promised discussions on the Thomas Report, and the case it made for devolution of justice functions.
The Counsel General noted that where it had been possible to advance particular items within the report, the Welsh Government continued to do so.
In addition to establishing the Law Council of Wales, he pointed to the agreement of the Civil Procedure Rules Committee last year to take forward the report’s recommendation that there should be a requirement that public law challenges against authorities in Wales must now be issued and heard in Wales.
Miles also cited the “significant progress” that had also been made in establishing a Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) pilot site in Wales. “The application from South-East Wales Local Family Justice Board to run a pilot has been successful and planning for the pilot is now underway ahead of the FDAC commencing activity in the autumn.”