Category Archives: LASPO

legal aid: what the manifestos say

The major parties have now published their manifestos for the forthcoming general election. This is what they have to say about legal aid.

Conservative party

The Conservative manifesto says:

  • Publicly-funded advocates will have specialist training in handling victims before taking on serious sexual offences cases.
  • To ensure that the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families over the last twenty years is not repeated, we will introduce an independent public advocate, who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster and support them at public inquests
  • We will strengthen legal services regulation and restrict legal aid for unscrupulous law firms that issue vexatious legal claims against the armed forces

Labour

The Labour manifesto says:

  • Labour will immediately re-establish early advice entitlements in the Family Courts. The shameful consequences of withdrawal have included a requirement for victims of domestic abuse to pay doctors for certification of their injuries. Labour’s plans will remove that requirement. At the same time, we will legislate to prohibit the cross examination of victims of domestic violence by their abuser in certain circumstances.
  • We will reintroduce funding for the preparation of judicial review cases. Judicial review is an important way of holding government to account. There are sufficient safeguards to discourage unmeritorious cases.
  • We will review the legal aid means tests, including the capital test for those on income-related benefits.
  • Labour will consider the reinstatement of other legal aid entitlements after receiving the final recommendations of the Access to Justice Commission led by Lord Bach.

Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dem manifesto says the party will:

  • Conduct an urgent and comprehensive review of the effects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act on access to justice, particularly funding for social welfare appeals, and domestic violence and exceptional cases
  • Secure further funding for criminal legal aid from sources other than the taxpayer, including insurance for company directors, and changes to restraint orders.

UKIP and the Green Party make no mention of legal aid in their manifestos.

 

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New Handbook published

The new edition of the Handbook has now been published and pre-order copies are being dispatched. You can order your copy from LAG here.

This book is an invaluable companion and essential reading for all legal aid practitioners, from caseworkers to senior partners. The authors have expertly pulled together information that is not currently available in one place providing the only single volume guide to the criminal and civil legal aid scheme.

‘… admirably clear on some very tricky points. There should be at least one copy in every office where legal aid work is carried out.’ Carol Storer, director, LAPG.

‘I wish I could say “this book is never off my desk” but the truth is my copy of LAG Legal Aid Handbook always appears to be on someone else’s … Essential reading for all practitioners seeking to provide a first class service to clients in a post-LASPO world.’  Phil Walsh Partner/Practice Manager, Miles & Partners LLP.

The  LAG legal aid handbook 2017/18 gives practical, step by step guidance on conducting cases, getting paid, advocacy, financial and contract management, performance monitoring and quality standards and an overview of recent policy developments. There are separate chapters on all the major areas of law covered by legal aid and sections devoted to litigators and advisers, advocates and managers.

This edition has been updated to include:

•  full coverage of the new 2017 crime contract

•  latest changes and updates to the civil scheme

•  discussion of current case law and hot topics in legal aid practice

•  hints, tips and practical advice from how to manage a contract to navigating CCMS

•  specialist chapters on billing, crime, public family law, private family law, housing, mental health, immigration and exceptional funding

•  a dedicated section for advocates

•  guidance on managing legal aid work and tendering for contracts

•  a full round up of the latest policy developments

The only comprehensive guide to the whole legal aid scheme, the new edition features chapters written by expert contributors Anthony Edwards, Richard Charlton, Steve Hynes, Solange Valdez-Symonds and Katie Brown. The LAG legal aid handbook 2017/18 is packed full of case studies, checklists and practical tips. It provides clear and easy to follow guidance on the ever more complex legal aid system and is essential reading for everyone involved in legal aid from new caseworkers to experienced lawyers and managers.

 

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Latest legal aid statistics published

 

The LAA has published its latest quarterly statistics, for October to December 2016, and they make grim reading.

  • Legal Help cases have fallen 14% compared to the same quarter last year, though civil certificates increased by 5%;
  • Crime has also fallen – with lower work down by 6% and higher by 4%. The effect of suspending the April 2016 fee cut meant that lower spend rose by 1%;
  • Mediation cases fell by 14% compared with the same period last year;
  • Total spend on crime in 2016 was £861million, and in civil £676million, of which £527million was family;
  • The collapse of non-family civil legal aid continues, with mental health down 5%, immigration down 24% and housing down 12% since last year;
  • Exceptional funding applications increased by 43%, and 58% of applications were granted – over half in immigration.

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The new Handbook – coming very soon!

The brand new edition of the LAG Legal Aid Handbook will be published at the beginning of April. Fully revised and updated, this edition features

  • full coverage of the new 2017 crime contract
  • latest changes and updates to the civil scheme
  • discussion of current case law and hot topics in legal aid practice
  • hints, tips and practical advice from how to manage a contract to navigating CCMS
  • specialist chapters on billing, crime, public family law, private family law, housing, mental health, immigration and exceptional funding
  • a dedicated section for advocates
  • guidance on managing legal aid work and tendering for contracts
  • a full round up of the latest policy developments

The Handbook is edited by Vicky Ling and Simon Pugh, and features contributions from a range of subject experts including Anthony Edwards, Steve Hynes, Richard Charlton, Solange Valdez-Symonds and Katie Brown.

You can pre-order your copy now by e-mailing: direct.orders@marston.co.uk or phoning: 01235 465577, or by clicking here.

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LAA invites applications for modern slavery and trafficking work

The LAA has issued an invitation to express interest in the delivery of services under paras 32 (2) and (3)  and 32A (2) and (3) of Schedule 1 of LASPO. These are employment law claims or other damages claims by victims of trafficking or of modern slavery arising out of the trafficking or slavery.

These cases are in the miscellaneous category, and therefore existing providers will have limited ability to offer Legal Help work. The LAA is offering an additional 10 matter starts to successful applicants, which must be used for this work, and with a facility to apply for more if needed. The invitation is open to all current holders of civil contracts, who will therefore have a licence to carry out certificated work arising out of any Legal Help cases taken.

The response form can be found here, and must be returned by noon on 12 January 2017.

 

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Merits tests amended from 22nd July

Following its successful appeal in IS in the Court of Appeal, the LAA announced that it would no longer fund cases that were “poor” or “borderline”. We questioned at the time whether it could lawfully take such an approach before the regulations that set out the merits tests were amended.

Amending regulations have now been laid and come into force on 22nd July. However, the LAA has changed its policy in the last month.

Funding for “borderline” cases will now remain in place in much the same way as before. But where cases categorised as “poor” but not “very poor” would be funded pre-IS, from 22nd July they won’t be. A new category of “marginal” prospects of success has been created for cases where prospects are 45% or above, which will be funded with the same stricter criteria that apply to borderline cases. “Poor” now means below 45%, and those cases drop out of funding.

If you didn’t apply for funding in a borderline or marginal case because of the LAA’s erroneous announcement last month, it will now be worth doing so.

The new criteria don’t apply to any cases where the initial application was made before 22nd July 2016.

More on the LAA site here.

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Supreme Court judgment in residence test case

The Supreme Court has issued its judgment in the residence test. As we reported at the time of the hearing, the Court took the very unusual step of upholding the appeal partway through the case. It’s now given its reasons.

In The Public Law Project, R (on the application of) v Lord Chancellor [2016] UKSC 39, Lord Neuburger gave the only judgment, the other six justices agreeing. He only dealt with the first ground of appeal – ultra vires – it being agreed that, as the case won on that ground alone it wasn’t necessary to deal with the other ground (discrimination).

Lord Neuburger held that LASPO defines what civil legal aid services are to be made available by reference to the issue of law, the nature of the services and the need and ability to pay of the individual requiring the services. There is nothing in the Act that excludes groups of people on the grounds of personal circumstances or personal characteristics beyond that – such as resident status – and nothing in the Act that enables such an exclusion to be brought in using the powers given to make secondary legislation. He also noted the strong presumption in statutory interpretation that every Act applies not just to persons belonging to the territory affected by the Act, but also to “foreigners…within its territory”.

We’ve remarked before on the varying interpretations of the statutory purpose of LASPO. Lord Neuburger addressed that as well; “the purpose of Part 1 of LASPO was, in very summary terms, to channel civil legal aid on the basis of the nature and importance of the issue, an individual’s need for financial support, the availability of other funding, and the availability of other forms of dispute resolution. The exclusion of individuals from the scope of most areas of civil legal aid on the ground that they do not satisfy the residence requirements of the proposed order involves a wholly different sort of criterion from those embodied in LASPO and articulated in the 2011 paper.” This is a helpful formulation, putting the emphasis back on targeting need rather than reducing costs.

However, although it’s now clear that the residence test can’t be brought in by statutory instrument, it still could be done by primary legislation. The previous Prime Minister, David Cameron, made clear he supported that – though no legislative plans had been announced. It remains to be seen whether Theresa May – and whoever she appoints as Lord Chancellor – agrees.

 

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