Civil certificate means test – passported applications

Our thanks to Colin Henderson for drawing to our attention the following passage from FAQs released following the LAA’s recent provider reference group meetings:

Can the LAA reconsider what level of additional financial information is asked for from passported clients?
We have recently reviewed this and changed the evidence required to one month’s worth of bank statements in relation to civmeans 2 cases.
We’ve also reminded caseworkers of the discretion available when dealing with applications from vulnerable clients, e.g. those who are homeless.
We need to ask about third party finances where the client may be supported by a third party but, again, the caseworker should exercise discretion, taking the relevant circumstances into account.

Reducing the evidence requirement from three to one month’s worth of bank statements is welcome, as it should significantly reduce the bureaucracy and problems with obtaining evidence associated with legal aid applications. However, we would advise approaching it with some caution. The latest version of the means form itself (see page 13) still requires three months statements, not one. And experience suggests that changes of this type often take some time to filter down to front-line caseworkers. The safest approach would seem to be to submit three months where you can, and where you can’t submit one month and quote the above passage.

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

Civil tenders announced

The LAA has announced that it will open tenders in December for contracts in actions against the police, clinical negligence and public law. Contracts will run from November 2015.

It has published a headline intentions document. It confirms that it will be a non-competitive process, with all applicants meeting the tender requirements being awarded a contract. The requirements will include:

  • Lexcel or SQM held by contract start date
  • Supervisor:caseworker ratio of 1:4, with an amended clinical negligence supervisor standard
  • 7 procurement areas rather than the existing 12.

Matter starts in clinical negligence will be unrestricted. In actions against the police and public law, there will be two lots. Bidders in the lower lot will be guaranteed the matter starts they bid for. Bidders in the higher lot (for which there will be additional requirements) will be allocated at least the minimum volume for the lot.

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Filed under Actions Against the Police, Civil, Clinical Negligence, LASPO, Public Law

New crime consultation

After losing last week’s judicial review, the MoJ has rushed out a consultation on the two reports (by KPMG and Otterburn Consulting) it commissioned into the state of the criminal legal aid market and firms’ likely response to the cuts.

It is a very short consultation – only three weeks – and expressly not on the policy decisions, merely on the reports, their conclusions and the assumptions that underpin them.

The consultation documents, the reports and how to respond can be found here. It closes on 15th October.

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Legal aid: special report

The Guardian has published a series of excellent articles today on the impact of the legal aid cuts:

There is also coverage of yesterday’s report from the Children’s Commissioner, including that it has prompted Simon Hughes to review the impact of the cuts. It seems he was surprised to discover that his support for removing legal aid from many cases involving children left them unrepresented.

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MOJ loses two legal aid JRs

Rights of Women have been successful in obtaining permission to challenge the requirements to produce evidence of domestic violence/abuse as set out in Regulation 33 of the Civil Legal Aid Procurement Regulations 2012 (as amended in April 2014).  They argued that the regulations are too narrowly drafted and do not give effect to Parliament’s intention to protect people who are victims of violence/abuse. ROW were represented by the Public Law Project and supported by the Law Society. A full hearing is expected before the end of the year.

The LCCSA and CLSA were also successful in challenging the consultation process in relation to the proposed tender for crime Duty Contracts. However, the application to quash the second 8.75% fee cut next year was not granted. The judgment can be downloaded here.

It now appears that the MOJ will have to run a further short period of consultation, which could make the timetable, already tight, even more challenging. The MOJ tweeted that they were considering the techical issues concerning the consulation. We await further official announcements in due course.



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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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