In this update:
- Legal aid judicial reviews
- Legal aid bill in the House of Lords
- Important news for former clients of the Immigration Advisory Service
- Criminal bills
- Family high cost cases
- New LSC addresses
Legal aid judicial reviews
We reported earlier in the week that the LSC conceded a judicial review on the termination of the specialist support scheme. See also the statement from the Public Law Project. Meanwhile, the Law Society has brought a challenge to the Ministry of Justice’s decision to abolish committal fees in either way criminal cases. See the Gazette’s account of the hearing; judgement has been reserved.
Legal aid bill
Report stage – the last chance to make any changes to the bill – begins in the House of Lords next week. This page on the Parliament website contains links to all the debates so far, plus to where you can watch upcoming debates or read the transcripts once published. Justice for All have a range of briefings and resources on their website for lobbying peers – and don’t forget MPs. There is a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday on the impact of the cuts on the not for profit sector, and any changes to the bill achieved in the Lords will have to pass the Commons as well. You can email your MP via theyworkforyou. Our excellent publisher, the Legal Action Group, has carried out a survey of public attitudes to legal aid, which shows strong support for the concept of free advice on everyday social welfare legal problems. The survey is reported in today’s Observer, which is also predicting government defeats in the Lords. There have already been two definite and one probable concession in the last week.
Files of clients of IAS
When the Immigration Advisory Service went into administration last year, many former clients had difficulty in getting their files transferred to new representatives. As IAS was not in the regulated legal sector, there was no equivalent of an intervention to protect clients interests. However, there has now been an Order from the Registrar that the administrators should, on request, locate and pass on any closed files. However, this only runs until 28th May and after that date any files may be destroyed. Therefore all former clients of IAS who may wish to retrieve their files will need to act quickly. Full details are on the website of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association.
The LSC have begun a consultation with the Law Society and Bar Council on changes to the Criminal Defence Service Funding Order to allow payment for pages of prosecution evidence that have only ever existed electronically, to take account of the CPS’s plans to go paperless.
Family high cost cases
Family practitioners will be aware of the serious backlogs at the Special Cases Unit, which deals with high cost case plans and payments. In an attempt to bring down the backlog, they have withdrawn the facility to contact them by telephone, and now introduced changes to the case plan. The new format plan is available on the high costs cases page of the LSC website.
LSC office moves
LSC head office has moved into the Ministry of Justice building, and the Cardiff office has also changed address. Civil practitioners will need to note the new address of the Cardiff office as it is there that applications for prior authority to exceed the new maximum rates for experts must be sent.