In his regular column in the Law Society Gazette, our co-editor Anthony Edwards provides a helpful summary of the new criminal legal aid regulations in force from 1st April 2013. More can be found in his chapters of the Handbook – available now in hard copy and Kindle versions.
Category Archives: Handbook
We are grateful to David Gilmore for alerting us to the fact that the LAA has changed an answer to a ‘frequently asked question’, in relation to the evidence required to demonstrate that threatened possession proceedings are in scope.
The question was: Do providers have to wait for housing possession proceedings before providers can grant legal aid?
In the answer dated 12/04/13 the LAA stated:
97. Providers do not need to wait for housing possession proceedings to be issued before providing advice under Legal Help, as long as it appears proceedings will be issued unless there is some intervention. An application for Legal Representation will not be granted before there are proceedings in existence.
However, the answer to the same question (re-numbered 98) on 19/04/14 and still current as at 29/05.13 was:
98. Providers do not need to wait for housing possession proceedings to be issued before providing advice under legal help, as long as the client has received formal written notification that [our emphasis] proceedings will be issued (such as a section 8 or section 21 notice) unless there is some intervention. An application for legal representation will not be granted before proceedings have been issued at court by the opponent.
What does this mean?
There is no other guidance we can look at, which is not helpful. However, if we go back to the Act – schedule 1 para 33 (1) (b) is widely drafted:
33. 1 Civil legal services provided to an individual in relation to—
a) court orders for sale or possession of the individual’s home, or
b) the eviction from the individual’s home of the individual or others
Part 4 of Schedule 1 (definitions), states that “orders” include actual and contemplated proceedings. When proceedings move from the theoretical to the contemplated is not specified. However, we can see that the Legal Aid Agency has a decided preference for written evidence, not necessarily something formal like a letter before action or a notice of seeking possession but at least a letter from the landlord saying “if you don’t pay the rent I’ll evict you / take you to court”.
The problem is that not all tenants are entitled to a written notice and not all landlords will put threats to evict in writing; but we have been warned – advice must be in relation to a realistic prospect of eviction, advice on arrears in themselves is outside scope. If you are advising someone without written evidence, you are going to have to make very careful and thorough notes of your justification as you will probably have a battle on your hands when it comes to an audit – and no -one wants to be in that position. The prudent/cautious will only provide advice when the client has written evidence or wait for proceedings to be issued.
With less than three weeks to go, the MoJ and LSC have finally published all the key regulations for the implementation of the new scheme. We now have regulations governing the operation of the civil and criminal schemes, payment rates, financial eligibility and the statutory charge.
Both civil contracts have now been published in full, as have amendments to the crime Standard Terms, but amendments to the crime specification are still awaited. The LSC have said that they will be brought into force by the end of April, so given the six week notice period must be published within the next week or so. Supporting material such as category definitions is also now available.
The LSC’s online training modules are now available, and their face to face training is finally getting underway (though half of the sessions will be in April, after implementation).
Guidance on civil legal aid, on applying for exceptional funding and (released today) on the evidence to prove domestic or child abuse to the standard required to access family legal aid has now been published. We still await further guidance on assessing eligibility, costs assessment and the operation of the statutory charge.
The new forms have been published, but not yet guidance on how they will be completed or the form for applying for exceptional cases.
We have collated key material so far available (including all the above) on our LASPO Resources page, and will continue to add to it as more becomes available. Thanks to the amazing work of our publisher, Legal Action Group, we are also still on course to publish the new Handbook – the only up to date single volume guide to the whole legal aid scheme – at the beginning of April, ready for the start of the new scheme.You can pre-order your copy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: The Kindle edition is now available here
Vicky Ling, writing with Matthew Moore, has just published the Solicitors Office Procedures Manual, essential reading for any firm looking at updating its procedures.
The Solicitors Office Procedures Manual has been designed to enable you to deal with all of your compliance needs from one easy-to-use source. Whatever your type or size of practice the ‘mix and match’ approach adopted by this book will enable you to address any or all of the following:
- The Code of Conduct 2011 and other key elements of the SRA Handbook
- Lexcel version 5
- The procedural elements of the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme
- The Specialist Quality Mark (2012 edition)
- The Mediation Quality Mark (current edition 2009)
- The Legal Services Commission’s contract – Crime, Family and Civil
The Manual is provided in book and CD format so that you can download the entire text or particular sections with minimal effort. The easy-to-follow explanatory notes will enable you to adapt the contents for your particular situation. The Manual can be used as a conventional hard copy document, made available to the firm through a shared drive, or uploaded onto your firm’s intranet.
Key topics include:
- Risk management
- Client care and complaints management
- Equality and diversity
- Conflicts of interests
- Compliance with the SRA Accounts Rules 2011
- Data and information management
- Money laundering, mortgage fraud and the Bribery Act 2010
For more information on this vital publication, and to order your copy, see Vicky and Matthew’s website.