In this update:
- Legal aid and the Olympics
- Assessing the means of prisoners
- Devolved powers for judicial review
- Why LGFS claims are rejected
- LSC release annual statistics
- Calling the LSC
- Regulation of solicitors in NfPs
Legal aid and the Olympics Special provision is being made for an anticipated increase in work in the criminal courts because of the Olympics. There will be additional duty solicitors on rotas in affected areas, a relaxation of the evidence requirements for the criminal legal aid means test in so-called “Olymic fast-track cases”, and an LSC hotline for solicitors and the courts. Full details, including the amended duty rotas, on the LSC website. Meanwhile, the LSC have warned practitioners to expect some disruption to their service, and have put in place some contingency arrangements.
Assessing the means of prisoners
The LSC is significantly increasing the information it requires from prisoners and their partners in order to determine their eligibility for legal aid. From October there will be a new MEANS form specifically for prisoners, but before then the LSC will require the answers to additional questions. As these are not included on the current MEANS form, you should answer them in a covering letter or the additional details section of the MEANS form. The questions relate to the prisoner’s partner, property assets and bank accounts. Practitioners acting for prisoners will need to take careful account of the new requirements as failure the answer them is likely to lead to delays in the grant of a certificate. They should also be taken into account when exercising devolved powers in an emergency. Practitioners will also need to monitor theit effect as they may lead to difficulties in even submitting an application. Many prisoners may find it difficult to obtain three months of bank statements, for example.
Devolved powers for judicial review
Practitioners who currently hold devolved powers in judicial review cases may continue to exercise them until 31st March 2013, after the LSC extended the interim arrangements, in effect continuing to suspend their removal under the 2010 / 2012 contracts, but only for those who held them under 2007 contracts.
The LSC have published a list of the top 5 reasons why LGFS claims are rejected. Meanwhile, Tony Edwards’ regular criminal update in the Gazette contains a useful summary of recent cases on criminal costs.
LSC publish annual statistics
The LSC have published their annual statistics pack, with details of the numbers of cases and total legal aid spend in the last financial year. For a good analysis, see the LAG news blog.
Calling the LSC
in a development that surprised no one except the LSC, when it extended the opening hours of the telephone enquiry line a couple of weeks ago, it discovered that the volume of calls went up. as a result, it has issued yet another stern warning about the importance of only calling when it is urgent.
Regulation of solicitors in NfPs
I have written a piece for LegalVoice looking at the proposals of the Legal Services Board to regulate not for profit agencies that employ solicitors by requiring them to become Alternative Business Structures by April 2014. Any NfP that employs solicitors, or is thinking about doing so, will need to factor this into their business planning.
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