We reported the likely impact of the Court of Appeal in The Director of Legal Aid Casework and Lord Chancellor v IS  EWCA Civ 464. The Court found that the merits test, limiting legal aid to cases with a prospect of success over 50% was lawful.
Following the earlier decision by Collins J, the LAA had widened the merits test in 2015 to include the possibility of funding in cases which were poor or borderline. The LAA has now told the representative bodies that with immediate effect, it will no longer fund applications for civil legal aid representation certificates with less than a 50%, or borderline, prospect of success. It says practitioners should do the same when exercising delegated functions.
The LAA says that it is ‘considering’ changes to the Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) Regulations, which set out the merits tests, but no changes have yet been made. It’s not clear to us that the LAA has the power to refuse applications that meet the criteria in the regulations (including the borderline and poor criteria), or that it would be acting lawfully if it did so, unless the regulations were actually amended. However, it has made it clear that it will not fund such cases with immediate effect.
This could change if permission to appeal to the Supreme Court is given; but for now practitioners need to take this into account when using delegated functions or making applications to the LAA.