Transforming legal aid: the government responds

Criminal cuts

The Ministry of Justice published its response to the consultation and decisions today.

Key points:

  • There will be two criminal contracts, one for own client and one for duty work
  • Own client contracts will be unlimited in number and all firms who cross the quality threshold will get one
  • There will be a limited number of duty contracts per area, making 525 in total across England and Wales (down from about 1600 at present). Each contract may be held by a single entity (firm, ABS, etc) or by a consortium of no more than three members (four in non-urban areas)
  • Holders of both own and duty contracts will be able to use agents for up to 25% of the contract value
  • The Public Defender Service will be guaranteed a duty contract in each area where it operates
  • The tender process for new contracts is expected to start in April 2014
  • Support will be provided for bidders, including the release of data and access to “business support experts” within the LAA and potentially products from the British Business Bank
  • There will be two fixed fees for London and non-London police station cases, with escape fees at hourly rates 17.5% lower than now
  • Magistrates court fees will be simplified – there will be no higher and lower standard fees and no designated / non-designated area fees, but the existing categories will be retained. So there will be one fee per category. Hourly rates for duty work and non-standard fee cases will be cut by 17.5%
  • Revised LGFS scheme for the Crown Court with new fixed fees for cases less than 500 PPE and the current LGFS fixed fees – cut by 17.5% – for cases with more than 500 PPE
  • Revised AGFS for the Crown Court, implementing the proposed option 2
  • Interim payments in Crown Court cases for both litigators and advocates. Claim points are at PCMH for litigators, and at the start of the trial (but only where the trial is listed for 10 days or more) for both litigators and advocates.

Implementation dates:

  • 20 March 2014 – first round of cuts to police station, Magistrates Court and LGFS fees – 8.75% reduction
  • April 2014 – tenders for new contracts open
  • Summer 2014 – revised AGFS
  • Spring 2015 – new contracts start with second 8.75% cut to solicitor rates

Key documents:

Civil Cuts

Meanwhile, the government also responded today to the enquiry report from the Joint Committee of Human Rights into the civil legal aid cuts. While broadly defending its proposals, it offered further concessions in that the residence test will not apply to

  • children seeking support under ss17 and 20 Children Act 1989
  • successful asylum seekers will not be subject to the first limb of the test until 12 months after being granted asylum
  • refugees settled or transferred to the UK but who didn’t claim asylum here will not be subject to the first limb of the test until 12 months after arrival
  • there will be some flexibility in the evidence requirements for individuals whose personal circumstances (such as mental illness, homelessness) make it impracticable to provide evidence

There was no movement on prison law, borderline cases (both of which have been implemented now anyway) or exceptional cases.

1 Comment

Filed under Advocacy, Civil, Costs, Crime, LASPO, Policy

One response to “Transforming legal aid: the government responds

  1. Pingback: Important payment changes regulations published | Legal Aid Handbook

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