by Simon |
June 21, 2015 · 8:55 pm
Following the judgment in Brown v London Borough of Haringey  EWCA Civ 483 (our post here), the LAA has issued new guidance on applying for legal aid to represent those accused of contempt of court. As McCombe LJ said in Brown, this is criminal legal aid – even where the proceedings are in the civil courts – and so an application for a criminal representation order will be necessary.
Applications are made to the Nottingham office of the LAA, using form CRM14. If your firm doesn’t have a criminal contract, you will also need to apply for an individual case contract (ICC). Criminal legal aid for contempt is not means tested.
There is a guidance document for general contempt cases, and a separate one for applications for contempt cases in breach of injunctions made under Part 1 Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014.
Claims are made using form CRMCLAIM11 and the payment rates depend on the venue in which the contempt proceedings are heard. The LAA’s guidance unhelpfully refers to the 2013 Regulations “as amended” but doesn’t set out what the amendments are, where they are to be found, or acknowledge that an amended version of the 2013 Regulations isn’t available anywhere to the best of our knowledge.
These are the applicable payment rates:
- For cases started where the Representation Order was granted before 1 July 2015:
- For cases started where the Representation Order was granted on or after 1 July 2015:
There is an upper costs limit of £1,368.75 (£1,237.50 from 1 July) that can only be exceeded with prior approval from the LAA.
UPDATE: The July 2015 fee cut was revoked for cases starting on or after 1 April 2016. These cases will attract the rates, and costs limits, set out in the 2014 regs, above. For more on the revocation, see here.
by Simon |
May 17, 2015 · 10:39 am
In Brown v London Borough of Haringey  EWCA Civ 483 the Court of Appeal considered the availability of legal aid for contempt proceedings in the County Court. It was considering an appeal against the committal for contempt of an elderly man who was found to have breached anti-social behaviour injunctions. In the County Court, he was unrepresented following the failure of his solicitor’s efforts to obtain legal aid.
The solicitor had applied both to the LAA, which said it was a criminal matter and to apply to the Court; and to the Magistrates Court that dealt with legal aid applications in the local area, which said it was a civil matter and to apply to the LAA.
Giving judgment, McCombe LJ analysed what he said was “disgracefully complex” legal aid legislation. The relevant analysis is set out at paras 26 to 37. McCombe LJ concluded that this was indeed a criminal matter (that is, that it fell within the criminal legal aid scheme and the solicitor needed a criminal contract). He approved the judgment of Blake J in King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Council v Bunning and anor  EWHC 3390 (QB).
In cases in the Crown Court, High Court and Court of Appeal, the Court has the power to grant legal aid itself (which the Court of Appeal did, to allow Mr Brown’s representatives to be funded). But the County Court has no equivalent power. These are criminal applications which have to be made by criminal practitioners using criminal application forms. See also our posts on funding for new style anti-social behaviour injunctions here and here – this work can also be done by civil practitioners if the LAA is willing to grant an Individual Case Contract.
by Simon |
March 12, 2015 · 9:04 am
The Commons Justice Committee published its report on the impact of the cuts to civil legal aid today.
- the cuts have failed to target help at those who need it
- victims of domestic violence can’t get evidence they need to qualify for legal aid
- the MoJ failed to ensure that those who need legal aid are able to access it
- the exceptional cases scheme is failing
- there has been a significant underspend on legal aid as a result
- the cuts have reduced capacity among providers
- there are more litigants in person, and more litigants who have difficulty representing themselves effectively
- there has been a sharp fall in the use of mediation
- the cuts have increased costs elsewhere and the MoJ can’t show that value for money
The committee’s summary of its comments on each of the MoJ’s four objectives is reproduced below, and the full report can be found here, with the oral evidence here and written evidence here.
Since the reforms came into effect, there has been a significant underspend in the civil legal aid budget because the MoJ failed to ensure that those who are eligible for legal aid are able to access it. This has been partly been due to a lack of public information, including information about the Civil Legal Advice telephone gateway for debt advice, and the Committee recommends that the MoJ take prompt steps to redress this.
The Committee also concludes that the exceptional cases funding scheme has not worked as Parliament intended. It was supposed to act as a safety net, protecting access to justice for the most vulnerable. However, insufficient weight has been given to access to justice in the grant-making process and the Committee heard about a number of cases where it was surprising that such funding was not granted.
The Committee expects the MoJ to react rapidly to ensure that the scheme fulfils Parliament’s intention that the most vulnerable people are able to access legal assistance.
Although private family law was largely removed from the scope of legal aid, those who can provide evidence of domestic violence are still eligible. The Committee welcomes the MoJ’s efforts to ensure that healthcare professionals provide victims with the necessary evidence, but it remains concerned that a large proportion of victims do not have any of the types of evidence required, and about the strict requirement that evidence be from no more than 2 years ago, which the Committee considers should be a matter over which the Legal Aid Agency has discretion.
The inquiry found that the reforms have led to reduced capacity in the for-profit and not-for-profit legal advice and assistance sectors. Despite a warning from the Committee in a previous Report that advice deserts might be created, the Ministry of Justice did not carry out research into the geographical provision of legal advice before the reforms or the impact of the changes. The Committee recommends that work to rectify this should begin immediately.
The Government’s reforms have led to an increase in the number and a change in the profile of litigants in person: increasingly these are people who have no choice but to represent themselves, and who may thus have difficulty in doing so effectively: although many tribunals are accustomed to dealing with unrepresented litigants the courts have to expend more resources in order to assist them.
There has also been a sharp unintended reduction in the use of mediation. The Committee concludes that the end of compulsory mediation assessment, the removal of solicitors from the process and the lack of clear advice all contributed to the problem. However, the MoJ has acted swiftly to remedy this by setting up the Family Mediation Taskforce and accepting many, although not all, of its recommendations.
Value for money
The MoJ has not been able to demonstrate that it has achieved value for money for the taxpayer. Although significant savings have been achieved, efforts to target legal aid at those who most need it have focused on intervention aimed at the point after a crisis has already developed, rather than on prevention.
This has created knock-on costs, either because cases become more serious so become eligible for legal aid, such as house repossession cases, or because costs are shifted from the legal aid budget to other public services rather than reduced overall. The Committee believes that the MoJ must quantify these if it is to achieve its objective of better value for money.
Filed under Civil, Family, Housing, Immigration, LASPO, Policy, Social welfare
Tagged as civil, family, housing, immigration, LASPO, legal aid reform, social welfare
by Simon |
March 3, 2015 · 11:09 pm
Part of the government’s “transforming legal aid” agenda was to “restore public confidence” in the operation of judicial review by ensuring that only meritorious cases were brought. The method chosen to achieve that was to make payment for judicial review work conditional on permission being granted by the court (with limited exceptions, at the discretion of the LAA). Regulations to that effect came into force on 22 April 2014.
Four solicitors firms – Ben Hoare Bell, Deighton Pierce Glynn, Mackintosh Law and Public Law Solicitors – and the housing charity Shelter challenged the regulations. The claimants represent the range of judicial review work, covering between them work across categories such as immigration, housing, community care, public law and actions against the police, and were supported by witness evidence from a number of other organisations.
The High Court gave judgment today in Ben Hoare Bell Solicitors & Ors, R (On the Application Of) v The Lord Chancellor  EWHC 523 (Admin). The grounds of challenge were that a) the Lord Chancellor had no power to make the regulations introducing conditional funding; b) the regulations were inconsistent with the statutory purpose of LASPO; and c) that they would have a chilling effect on access to the courts, because providers would not be able to risk taking on work without payment.
Continue reading →
Filed under Actions Against the Police, Civil, Community Care, Costs, Housing, Immigration, LASPO, Public Law
Tagged as Actions against the police etc, asylum, civil, community care, costs, housing, immigration, judicial review, Public Law
by Vicky |
February 16, 2015 · 8:21 am
The Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 (ASBCPA) will come into force in March 2015. Injunctions in breach proceedings under Part 1 of the Act (and other Orders) will replace ASBOS. The new injunctions will be based on the civil standard of proof. Applications will be heard in the Youth Court for under 18s and in the County Court for adults.
The government has decided that ASBCPA injunctions will fall under the crime contract. Civil practitioners will be able to apply for individual case contracts to represent clients with whom they have previously had involvement. Payments for breach proceedings will be based on crime fees in the Magistrates’ Court. Payments for applications and appeals against a part 1 injunction will be made at standard civil legal aid rates for legal help and legal representation. All fees will include travel and waiting time.
These changes will not affect housing practitioners defending clients against anti social behaviour related possession claims. However, the changes may represent an opportunity to liaise with crime practitioners and encourage referrals of clients involved in anti social behaviour injunction cases, in order to protect their (and their families’) homes.
More information can be found here.
by Vicky |
January 29, 2015 · 5:50 pm
The LAA announced this week that the Client and Cost Management System (CCMS) will become mandatory for new civil applications and bills from 1 October 2015. The LAA has served notice under clause 20 of the Standard Civil Contract. Organisations should have received formal notification by email, which should be confirmed by post by the end of January.
The LAA says it is giving greater notice than strictly required under the contract to give practitioners time to train and get used to the new system gradually. Feedback from practioners suggests that the LAA also needs to undertake development in order to make the system work well before it becomes mandatory. Resolution has been leading the representative bodies in pressing the LAA for improvements in functionality.
The LAA has made online training modules available which take practitioners through the relevant stages:
- Getting access to the system
- Starting to use the system
- Support available
In addition, they have provided face to face sessions in a number of practices. Resolution has provided a comprehensive guide for its members, based on the experience of members in the north east who were involved in the pilot.
CCMS means the way you deal with legal aid administration will have to change significantly. Practitioners would be well advised to take full advantage of the lead in period before October.
Filed under Civil, Clinical Negligence, Community Care, Housing, Immigration, Mental Health, Public Law, Social welfare
Tagged as civil, clinical negligence, community care, contracts, family, housing, immigration, Public Law, social welfare, welfare benefits
by Vicky |
January 26, 2015 · 7:27 pm
The LAA has issued new guidance to its Contract Managers which may make it easier for practitioners to get more civil New Matter Starts (NMS) if they run out.
This is less of an issue than it used to be under the Access to Justice Act scheme when more Controlled Work was done; but we still hear reports from some practitioners that they have run out of NMS and when they asked their Contract Manager for more, were told that another practice in their Procurement Area (PA) still had some, so they should send the client there. This is clearly unsatisfactory from both the client’s and the practice’s point of view.
However, from 22 January 2015, whether another practice in the PA has NMS is no longer to be taken into account.
You will need to convince your Contract Manager:
- you are unable to meet an urgent demand for your services
- an urgent need arises because another practice has reduced or stopped providing the service
- there is a general increase in demand for services of that type in your PA
The Contract Manager can authorise up to another 50% on top of your original schedule allocation (so if your initial allocation was 100, you can be awarded up to 50 more that year).
If you applied for a lot size in the tender that allowed you to self grant up to an additonal 50%, you cannot apply to your Contract Manager for more.
In exceptional circumstances, the Contract Manager may be able to grant additional NMS to address emergency situations.
Filed under Actions Against the Police, Civil, Family, Housing, Immigration, Mental Health, Public Law, Social welfare
Tagged as Actions against the police etc, civil, community care, contracts, family, housing, immigration, Public Law, social welfare, welfare benefits
by Simon |
November 24, 2014 · 8:37 pm
Many of our readers with an interest in housing legal aid will have seen the excellent article in this month’s Legal Action, “Sorting myths from facts over housing cases” by Sara Stephens and Jan Luba QC. Many of the citations in the article were to the legal aid reform FAQs issued when LASPO first came into force in 2013, but which are no longer available on the LAA website since it migrated to the gov.uk domain. Fortunately we saved a copy, and they are available here (final version) and on our LASPO Resources page, which also includes the two earlier versions.
by Simon |
October 24, 2014 · 2:06 pm
The Commons Justice Committee is holding an enquiry into the impact of LASPO. It took oral evidence earlier this week on housing, immigration and family cases – you can read the transcript here (and see here Nearly Legal’s take on the kind offer of one MP on the committee).
Meanwhile, the written evidence submitted to the enquiry is also available; it makes interesting, if depressing, reading.
Filed under Civil, Family, Housing, Immigration, LASPO, Policy
Tagged as civil, exceptional funding, family, housing, immigration, LASPO, legal aid reform
by Vicky |
September 4, 2014 · 4:53 pm
Just to remind people, further to our previous post, that time is fast running out to submit pre-4 August forms. Completed paper forms, submitted by post, signed and dated before 1 September 2014, will be accepted by the LAA as long as they are received on or before 5pm on 5 September.
From 1 September 2014, the new forms are mandatory.
Filed under Civil, Family, Housing, Immigration, Mental Health, Public Law
Tagged as advocacy, civil, costs, family, forms, housing, immigration, mental health