Following the successful challenge in R (Duncan Lewis Solicitors Ltd) v Director of Legal Aid Casework and the Lord Chancellor in October 2018, the LAA has announced that it will get new powers to backdate funding under legal aid certificates in urgent cases from 20 February 2019. The challenge was to a refusal by the LAA to backdate funding in an urgent immigration judicial review case to the date of the application where legal action had to be taken very quickly, even though the solicitors had made the application as promptly as possible.
The backdating power is likely to benefit clients needing to challenge decisions by public authorities where delegated functions are not available. However, the LAA will provide more guidance in due course before the new power comes into effect.
The amendments to the Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 which will bring this change into force can be found here.
The LAA will be closing its ‘out of hours’ service as a result of this new power. It has stressed that this change will not affect delegated functions which will remain available where appropriate. There is more information here.
We’ve covered elsewhere the key LAA announcement – the timetable for the 2018 civil contracts tender – but there are a couple of other issues that’s it’s worth making sure didn’t get overlooked in the holiday season.
LAA online services – including CCMS, eforms, CWA, CCLF and the management information service – are accessed via the LAA portal. The portal is being upgraded on 11 September. It doesn’t seem that there will be a major overhaul of the look and functionality of the systems. But the LAA promises increased stability and faster log in times.
Crucially, following the upgrade all users will have to reset their passwords. In order to do that, they need to know their current passwords. So you should make sure that all users in your office know their current passwords and have checked they still work before 5 September – which is the last day for requesting a reset before the upgrade. More information here.
Meanwhile, online billing for Crown Court work (both AGFS and LGFS) will become mandatory from 31 October – more here.
Immigration practitioners looking for extra matter starts, including those that didn’t get any in the recent supplementary matter starts process, have been reminded that you can ask your contract manager for more matter starts when needed. The LAA has also issued news alerts drawing attention to the rules on claiming hourly rates and on refunding client travel in immigration cases. News articles like this can be a useful reminder of how the LAA sees the rules following feedback of difficulties, but also an indicator of potential audit activity – so are something immigration practitioners will want to take note of.