Government proposals to introduce bidding for criminal defence work will mean the end of specialist advice and representation for defendants accused of work-related crimes.

Lawyers working for trade union members warn that despite a Government report recognising the importance of niche criminal defence services – the latest plans will kill off specialist criminal support for hard-working people and families 95% of whom either have their case dropped or are found not guilty.

Thompsons, which is the largest and most experienced trade union law firm in the UK, employs highly specialised solicitors who, for instance, act for teachers and care workers in abuse and assault cases.

The firm can also be called upon to defend emergency services workers accused of causing death by dangerous driving and specialises in health and safety investigations, inquests and the employment law consequences of criminal investigations.

Thompsons says that the Legal Services Commission's “Best Value Tendering” proposals are highly restrictive, will undermine choice and quality, will exclude niche providers and may mean the end of specialist criminal defence services.

Paula Porter of Thompsons said: “The proposals take an eBay approach to the purchase and supply of criminal legal services, standards will suffer as a result. Specialist law representation will be denied to hard-working people and families whose livelihoods and careers are at stake. Thompsons, as a niche provider, should be allowed to specialise on a national basis.”

Ms Porter pointed out that the current plans offer no administrative savings for the LSC. "In fact there are likely only to be savings both administratively and in efficiency if National Niche Providers are allowed to survive," she said.

This story was also published in the Times Online.