In this update:
- New Point of Principle
- High Court criticism of criminal legal aid
- LSC telephone opening hours change
- Accepting duty solicitor calls
- Civil tenders – late submission
- Immigration stage claims
New Point of Principle
Deighton Pierce Glynn have reported on their website a new Point of Principle which they have obtained from the Costs Appeal Committee. It has not been reported on the LSC website yet, but is an important decision. It confirms that the LSC can only reverse a decision of a supplier to grant Legal Help or an emergency certificate where it was unreasonable for it to have been granted. The LSC can not merely substitute its own decision for that of the provider. The full point of principle states:
Where a supplier exercises devolved powers to provide legal advice, assistance or representation, it is only open to the LSC assessor and/or ICA to reject the claim on the basis of section 5 of the Funding Code Criteria (PDF) where the supplier’s decision was manifestly unreasonable
The full text, with reasons, can be found on the Deighton Pierce Glynn website (PDF). Thanks to Deighton Pierce Glynn and LAPG for publicising it. There has been a recent trend of the LSC overturning grants, or deeming the sufficient benefit test not to be met, and this PoP will be very valuable in dealing with those cases.
High Court criticises criminal legal aid
In Stopyra v District Court of Lublin, Poland  EWHC 1787 (Admin), the High Court considered two extradition cases that had been significantly delayed because of problems in the assessment of means leading to delays in the grant of legal aid. In one of the cases, it took three months for legal aid to be granted even though the client was in custody. It is an important case for all criminal lawyers, not just those dealing with extradition, as the Court had significant criticisms of the process for assessing means, the degree of evidence required from defendants in custody (and the approach taken to their means), the forms that have to be completed and the significant delays in obtaining prior authorities (see also the recent judgement DS and Others on prior authorities in the family courts, referred to in our post here). The Court in this case held (para 50) that requests for adjournments pending grants of legal aid will need to be rigorously examined, but “delays in the grant of legal aid which are not attributable to the requested person must not be held against him”.
We are seeing in this case and in DS increased judicial awareness of the pressures legal aid practitioners are under, and increased criticism of the system within which we have to operate. No doubt those pressures will increase following the full implementation of LASPO. But as has been made clear, those are matters for the government not the Courts, and there is no sign as yet that they have been heard.
LSC telephone opening hours
The LSC have extended the times you can call with civil queries back to 9 – 5, but only for “urgent” queries. “Urgent” is tightly defined as outside published target times and work has to start immediately.
If you can’t meet those criteria, or have other cause for dissatisfaction with the LSC, another option is to use the complaints procedure. Matt Howgate at LegalVoice has written a very useful article on the LSC’s powers to award compensation when something goes wrong.
Accepting duty solicitor calls
The LSC have agreed a protocol by which staff of a firm other than duty solicitors and other representatives can accept calls from the DSCC. Most likely to be of interest to larger firms who centralise their police station work, it can be found on the LSC website.
Civil tenders – late submission
The deadlines for submission for both the face to face and telephone PQQs have now passed. Since the deadlines, a few people have come to this site and searched for whether there are grounds for allowing late submissions in exceptional circumstances. Regrettably, there are not. Paragraph 3 of Section 7 of the face to face IFA says
The Applicant Organisation must submit a complete PQQ response (in accordance with paragraph 6) by 12 noon on Monday 18 June 2012 (“the deadline”). For the purposes of the deadline, the time specified on Bravo shall be the definitive time. A PQQ response will be unsuccessful if it is submitted by the Applicant Organisation after the deadline. LSC will not consider (1) any requests by the Applicant Organisation to amend or submit the PQQ response after the deadline or (2) any requests by the Applicant Organisation for an extension of the time or date fixed for the submission of the PQQ response.
There are similar provisions in the telephone IFA. If you did not get the PQQ in on time, you will not be able to reply to the ITT in September and will not be awarded a contract from April next year.
Immigration stage claims
LAPG‘s most recent update (21 of 2012) asks for feedback on whether the absence of an ability to claim payments on account in immigration controlled work cases is causing any problems. The length of the case – and amount of disbursements – can cause significant cashflow problems for firms who have to carry the costs of the case sometimes for years. If it is an issue for you, please contact LAPG.