The pattern of a group of announcements, followed by a fortnight’s silence, followed by another group of announcements, seems to be well-established. After last week’s silence, there has been another cluster of important developments. Two – on family contract tenders and contract compliance audits – are the subject of separate post. The LSC have also issued yet another reminder to family practitioners of the training available on the new fees; if you haven’t done it yet, it is worth doing so. They are also looking for practitioners to act as Independent Costs Assessors. Given that many firms and organisations are complaining of an increase in arbitrary and heavy-handed assessment decisions, the position of ICA is more important than ever.
In crime, as we reported last week, legal aid has been extended to cover domestic violence prevention notices and orders in the three pilot areas of Greater Manchester, West Mercia and Wiltshire. The LSC have now issued a guidance note (PDF) confirming that police station advice, free-standing advice and assistance and representation orders are all available as appropriate, as is assistance from the court duty solicitor.
In light of the Hookway case, pending the passage of the emergency legislation introduced in the Commons yesterday, the LSC has also issued a guidance note (PDF) on billing work where a client is re-arrested. In short, it confirms that where the re-arrest is on the same matter, all work is part of the same fixed fee.
Finally, the legal aid bill continues its progress through Parliament, with the second reading debate last week and the first committee hearings next week. There has been much controversy over clause 12, which gives the government the power to restrict police station advice. Jonathan Djanogly has now said that the government will not activate the clause. This was said at the Legal Action Group Social Welfare Law conference earlier this week; speeches by Djanogly and Sadiq Khan, the shadow Lord Chancellor, are available on the LAG website.