Deadline to accept crime contracts extended

The LAA has extended the deadline for accepting crime contracts and securing slots on the next duty rotas by two days.

The deadline was due to expire on Monday 20th March, but many firms have reported that they have still not received their contract schedule – and so could not accept and return it.

The LAA has therefore extended the deadline until 22nd March. It posted this on its website this afternoon:

Contract schedules for organisations that have completed verification have now been uploaded and are ready to accept. Unfortunately, this process has taken longer than anticipated and we apologise for any inconvenience.

Accordingly, we have extended the time for you to accept these contracts and secure your rota slots. You now have until 5pm on Wednesday 22 March to accept.

If you have not received a contract schedule and have not received a communication from us about any further delay with your contract documentation, you should contact us via the Bravo E-tendering system and headline your message ‘contract query’.

While the time has been extended, we would advise that you accept your contract as soon as possible in case you encounter any technical difficulties.

We are continuing to upload crime contract schedules for all those organisations which will be included on duty rotas in April 2017. We are aiming to complete this today.

If you have not received a contract schedule by 5pm today (16 March 2017) and consider that you should have, please check Bravo as we may have already communicated with you about this.

If you consider that your contract schedule is still outstanding please notify Bravo e-tendering system heading your message ‘Contract query’.

If you are having trouble accessing your documents in CWA please refer to the guidance available on our website.

Please also ensure that you have set up the requisite number of ‘designated signatories’ on CWA. Guidance on how to allocate a designated signatory in CWA is available on our website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime

LALYs 2017 launched

LAPG has opened nominations for the 2017 Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards. Nominations this year are done via the LAPG website here, and close on 28 April. This year’s categories are:

  • Children’s Rights sponsored by CILEx
  • Criminal Defence sponsored by DG Legal
  • Family Private (including Mediation) sponsored by Resolution
  • Family Public sponsored by Resolution
  • Immigration and Asylum sponsored by Accesspoint
  • Public Law sponsored by Irwin Mitchell
  • Social and Welfare sponsored by Tikit
  • Legal Aid Newcomer sponsored by Friends of LALY17
  • Legal Aid Barrister sponsored by The Bar Council
  • Legal Aid Firm/Not-for-profit Agency sponsored by The Law Society
  • Access to Justice through IT sponsored by The Legal Education Foundation
  • Outstanding Achievement sponsored by Matrix Chambers

Leave a comment

Filed under Actions Against the Police, Advocacy, Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Crime, Family, Housing, Immigration, Mental Health, Public Law, Social welfare

New point of principle

The LAA has published an updated Point of Principle Manual. It includes a new PoP, CLA59, which applies to both civil and criminal work. The PoP says:

Where a provider exercises discretion as provided for under the relevant Financial Regulations an assessor may only overturn a determination that an individual qualifies for services where the provider’s determination was manifestly unreasonable.

This point of principle applies to any aspect of the determination which requires a provider to exercise an element of discretion. It does not override any mandatory regulatory or contractual duty relating to the assessment of means. Any determination that an individual is financially eligible for legal services must comply with all relevant regulatory and contractual provisions. In complying with these provisions providers must have regard to the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance issued in relation to determining financial eligibility.

This is a useful re-statement of the principle that the role of the assessor is not to substitute their own judgement for that of the lawyer doing the work. The lawyer’s exercise of a discretion within the scheme should only be overturned if, based on what was known at the time, it was manifestly unreasonable.

PoPs don’t apply to the 2015 civil and 2017 criminal contracts. However, this is a re-statement of a general principle (see also our post on equivalent case law here, and see CLA56, which applies the same principle to the more limited issue of exercise of delegated functions). As such, the LAA should be taking the same approach across all work.

1 Comment

Filed under Actions Against the Police, Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Costs, Crime, Family, Housing, Immigration, Mental Health, Public Law, Social welfare

LAPG launches survey on CCMS

LAPG has launched a survey to gather feedback on CCMS. It is aimed at all practitioners, not just LAPG members, and will provide valuable information on user perspectives to assist in lobbying the LAA for change. LAPG says:

We want to capture what is happening with CCMS. We receive more email correspondence on CCMS than on all other subjects put together. We have prepared a survey to find out what the current position is with CCMS.  The survey is here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NDHNT6W

We hear from the LAA that some practices find it fine but that does not reflect the feedback that we receive. However if you think it is ok then it would be really helpful if you could complete the survey.

Here’s what you need to know:-

  • It will remain open until Friday 3 March.
  • Please do put CCMS references in – we know people tend to prefer anonymity but we hope that there will be sufficient numbers completing the survey to give people comfort.
  • We have piloted it with many people and we are very grateful to them for all their help. The more people completed it, the more problems were raised and we were asked to incorporate more and more into the survey. So it may take half an hour to fill it in comprehensively.
  • You can skip sections but essentially the structure is
    • Applications
    • Amendments
    • Billing/POAs
    • Incorrect actions and
    • General issues such as stability.
  • Generally questions ask about CCMS since 1 January 2017. Why? Because if we collect older data and changes have been made, then that is of limited value.

What is the point of the survey? We have told the LAA that we are carrying it out and indeed sent them a draft of the survey. Our aim is to collect up to date information in a form that we can present to the LAA and MoJ. If our members who complain about CCMS are representative of the majority then there are a lot of issues that need sorting. The danger is that the view represented in the LAA Annual Report 2015-2016 goes unchallenged.

The Report said:- ‘The system was rolled out to all civil legal aid providers on a voluntary basis from September 2014, and was mandated in phases during 2015- 16. From 1 April 2016, it became mandatory to submit all civil applications online through the CCMS. Submitting both applications and bills using the CCMS, saves providers time and the cost of sending paper forms through the post.’

Leave a comment

Filed under Actions Against the Police, Advocacy, Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Costs, Family, Housing, Immigration, Mental Health, Public Law, Social welfare

MoJ consults on changes to crime fees

Alongside the consultation on AGFS, the MoJ has launched another – this time on LGFS and on fees for court-appointed advocates to cross-examine on behalf of unrepresented defendants.

The LGFS consultation proposes reducing the PPE limit from 10,000 to 6,000 pages, with anything over that being paid as special preparation rather than PPE. The justification is to reverse increases on overall spend since costs decisions widening the definition of PPE in cases involving electronic evidence. It is said to represent a temporary measure pending wider reform of LGFS.

Although no firm announcement has been made and a connection is not explicitly drawn, the paper strongly suggests that the second 8.75% fee cut for litigators, postponed for one year by Michael Gove, will not be introduced only if this change is made instead.

The paper also contains a separate proposal to reduce the fees paid to court appointed advocates in cases where unrepresented defendants are prevented from cross-examining complainants in person. Currently “reasonable fees” are allowed; it is proposed to reduce that to legal aid rates.

The consultation paper can be found here, and closes on 24 March 2017. Practitioners will need to give it careful thought and respond accordingly. It is explicitly designed to reduce the costs payable in more complex Crown Court cases – the impact of that will vary from firm to firm and may be more or less than the across the board 8.75% cut in individual cases.

Leave a comment

Filed under Advocacy, Costs, Crime

LAA withdraws direct contacts

The LAA has announced that it will no longer be possible to contact the immigration, exceptional funding and civil high cost cases teams direct. For the next two months direct calls to those teams using existing numbers will be diverted to the main customer service number. After that time they will stop working altogether and you will need to dial customer services direct. It says this is to “simplify” contacting the LAA and to divert resources towards casework.

Affected numbers are:

  • National Immigration and Asylum Team – 020 3334 5900
  • High Cost Cases Brighton – 01273 878870
  • High Cost Cases London – 0203 334 5750
  • Exceptional Case Funding Team – 020 3334 6060

The main customer service number is 0300 200 2020.

Leave a comment

Filed under Actions Against the Police, Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Family, Housing, Immigration, Mental Health, Public Law, Social welfare

Further delay on duty rotas

Following recent problems in processing CRM12 forms the LAA has delayed issuing new duty rotas until March, with revised scheme membership lists coming out this week.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime