LAA posts FAQs on Duty crime contracts

The LAA has published a frequently asked questions document in relation to the crime duty tender. As tends to be the case, some of the answers are illuminating and others raise further questions which remain unanswered. However, any firm considering a bid will want to consider them carefully.

Financial information The LAA will want information on gearing (generally understood as the ratio of fee-earners to owners of the business), debt and net worth. The LAA says the data will be considered by ‘qualified financial professionals’ – we hope they will be familiar with legal practices as knowledge of the sector is so important  in being able to interpret the raw data correctly. Firms may wish to discuss this with their own accountants now with a view to providing explanatory notes if needed.

Expansion capacity The LAA will consider ‘current turnover’ as the entire turnover of the Applicant Organisation, including all legal aid and private paying work, not just in crime. This may assist larger mixed practices.

Current turnover will be the last two years accounts – again, if anything would require explanation due to particular circumstances, firms may wish to consider this with their accountants now.

Percentage of work done by the Applicant Organisation / Delivery Partner This will not have to be specified in the bid and the LAA will simply keep it under review as part of routine contract monitoring.

Contract values To date the LAA has only been able to provide the value of work undertaken on individual police station schemes and has not been able to split out the value of work in the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts as data was not gathered that way. It will publish indicative contract values when the tender opens.

Capacity tests These will not relate to a minimum number of duty solicitors; but there will be a supervisor/caseworker ratio as documented in the draft contract. Note that supervisor requirements are being changed. The new forms are here.

The LAA confirmed you will need to employ a full time fee-earner per every £83k of indicative contract value. This is disappointing as it imposes an artificial framework and may inhibit firms from developing the most effective model for delivery under the proposed new arrangements.

VHCC work will not be included in the duty contracts.

Duty work It will not be possible to convert a duty client into an own client if the client gives further instructions post initial duty work in the police station or Magistrates Court. This also restricts flexibility under the proposed scheme.

Procurement areas Although we know what these will be called, we still do not know exactly what will be covered in each procurement area contract. In some areas, particularly in London, police station and court schemes will not necessarily be co-terminous and we will have to see how this will work when the tender opens. This is very frustrating and makes it hard to plan.

The JR If the outcome affects the LAA’s timetable – they still expect to open the bid in October – they will let us know.






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Changes to Crown Court fees

The Criminal Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2014 have been published, and come into force on 2nd October. They implement promises the government made earlier in the year to introduce payments on account for Crown Court fees.

For representation orders issued on or after 2nd October, litigators may claim an interim payment when:

  • a not guilty plea is entered at a plea and case management hearing (provided it is not a case where the defendant has elected Crown Court trial);
  • a retrial is ordered and representation is transferred to a new litigator (provided it is not a case where the defendant has elected Crown Court trial);
  • a trial listed for 10 days or more has commenced.

Paragraphs 11 to 14 of new Regulation 17A of the Remuneration Regulations (see the schedule of these amendment regs for the text) sets out the mechanism for calculating interim payments:

Also, there is a change to the fee regime for both litigators and advocates. In cases where the defendant has elected Crown Court trial and the prosecution offer no evidence with a not guilty verdict being entered, a graduated fee rather than a fixed fee may be claimed. Again, this applies to representation orders issued on or after 2nd October.

Our Resources and Handbook Updates pages have been amended to reflect these changes.

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Time is running out for old civil forms

Just to remind people, further to our previous post, that time is fast running out to submit pre-4 August forms. Completed paper forms, submitted by post, signed and dated before 1 September 2014, will be accepted by the LAA as long as they are received on or before 5pm on 5 September.

From 1 September 2014, the new forms are mandatory.

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Duty crime contracts – more information

The LAA has published some more information about how the tender and the contracts themselves will work. In some ways the information raises as many questions as it answers but it also clarifies some important issues. There are two documents:

1. 2015 Duty Provider Crime Contracts Update

This sets out 8 key bidding rules:

  1. There will be a fixed number of equal sized contracts in each procurement area
  2. An organisation can only make one bid as an applicant organisation in a procurement area
  3. An organisation can only be included in two bids per procurement area
  4. An organisation can only be included in two bids per procurement area, ie as an applicant organisation once and a delivery partner once, or twice as a delivery partner
  5. The maximum number of organisations in a single bid for a procurement area is four, ie one applicant organisation and up to three delivery partners
  6. Within a bid, the applicant organisation must deliver the largest share of the work
  7. An applicant organisation must deliver a specified percentage of the total value of the contract – 30% in rural areas and 45% in urban areas
  8. A delivery partner must not deliver more than 40% of the value of work in a single bid

The document goes on to set out points to consider if bidding with a delivery partner, which emphasise that all the risks sit firmly with the applicant organisation – even as far as being responsible for the peer review result of a partner.

It provides example scenarios in which organisations may consider bidding with others as delivery partners

  • Geographical coverage
  • To gain a key member of staff with expertise which would attract more points in the as yet unpublished scoring scheme
  • To allow very large organisations up to 140% of work in a procurement area

Financial assessment

Applicant organisations will have to submit financial information which will be assessed by a qualified financial professional based on key ratios from their accounts. New organisations will have to submit cash flow forecasts.

Expansion capacity assessment

Organisations bidding for contracts that are valued at more than twice their current value or are new entities will be subject to more detailed financial assessment.

They will be able to designate a ‘main bid’ and an ‘expansion bid’. If assessed as being able to deliver their main bid, it will be protected, rather than all bids being rejected due to expansion.

2. Example Duty Rotas

  • Each procurement area will have a separate duty scheme.
  • Outside London, the schemes will include a number of police station schemes and court schemes
  • In London, the schemes will be made up of ‘a police station scheme and/or a court scheme’. This will undoubtedly give London firms much food for thought as schemes within the London area could be markedly different from each other. However, we will not know until the tender is actually published, which makes it very difficult to plan
  • Providers on rotas will receive an equal share of duty slots – the LAA sets out some examples of how these could work

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Updated Resources Page

We have updated our Resources page to the new locations of documents on There are a couple of items that we haven’t been able to locate on, in which case we have linked to the archive version instead (we would be glad to hear if any of them turn up). Otherwise all links should now be working and directed to the current locations. The “guidance” section has been shortened to make it easier to find material, with links that were duplicated in other sections removed.

Suggestions for additions and improvements are, as ever, welcome.

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Filed under Actions Against the Police, Advocacy, Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Costs, Crime, Family, Housing, Immigration, LASPO, Mental Health, Public Law, Social welfare

Legal aid in welfare benefits cases

Our thanks to Nick Whittingham for drawing to our attention a case involving Kirklees Law Centre, which was refused legal aid to appear at an oral hearing of the Upper Tribunal in a welfare benefits case. It continued to represent the appellant pro bono, as did counsel Tom Royston. The decision is reported at JC v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (ESA) (Employment and support allowance : Post 28.3.11. WCA activity 16: coping with social engagement) [2014] UKUT 352 (AAC)

In a three judge decision – the panel including Charles J, the Upper Tribunal president and a First Tier Tribunal president – the Tribunal regretted the refusal of legal aid and set out a series of factors it invited the LAA to take into account when considering future applications (see para 63):

More generally we take this opportunity to invite the Legal Aid Agency in other cases where a three judge panel of the Upper Tribunal (AAC) has been convened to hear an appeal to take account of  the following:

i)                 Paragraph 3(a) of the Senior President’s Practice Direction relating to the composition of that tribunal and thus the reasons why the Senior President or the Chamber President can direct a three judge panel.  They are that: “… the matter involves a question of law of special difficulty or an important point of principle or practice, or that it is otherwise appropriate …” for there to be a three judge panel.

ii)                These directions are not made lightly.  When they are the legal issues involved will be of that nature, the appeals will involve individuals and the Secretary of State and decision making will be greatly assisted by written and oral argument.

iii)               The role of the Upper Tribunal (AAC) in setting precedent and thus consistency of decision making by First-tier Tribunals in respect of claims for benefits, and thus the wide impact of its decisions on cases heard by First-tier Tribunals.

iv)               The great advantage of resolving differences between decisions of single Upper Tribunal judges by a decision of a three judge panel.  This is based on the long standing practice that three judge panel decisions will be followed by both the Upper Tribunal and the First-tier Tribunal.  That practice avoids the need for such differences between single judges to be determined by the Court of Appeal and so greatly reduces the number of appeals to that court.

v)                The fact that the above points indicate that the grant of legal aid in cases to be heard by a three judge panel is likely to be of great assistance to the Upper Tribunal in resolving difficult and important issues of law that, subject to further appeal to the Court of Appeal, will create precedent and thereby assist in the correct determination of a large number of other cases by the Department and First-tier Tribunals.

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Mediation tender announced

In a change from previous statements, yesterday, the LAA published the timetable and initial information for mediation contracts for 2015.

  • Existing contracts will be extended to 31 October 2016 – contract holders will not need to bid
  • Existing contract holders will be able to bid for additional outreach locations
  • New organisations will be able to bid for new contracts to start on 1 February 2015

The tender will run from on 1-31 October 2014.

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