Those words, a criticism of the removal of legal aid in private law family proceedings, came not from a legal aid lawyer or politician opposed to the cuts. They were said, today, by a High Court Judge. Giving judgment in MG & JG v JF  EWHC 564 (Fam), Mostyn J expressed himself in unusually strong terms about the effect of a lack of legal aid on the litigants in the case before him, and more broadly.
The facts of the case are that a lesbian couple had a child fathered by a donor, who had contact with the child in his early years, until the relationship between the mothers broke down. He issued an application for contact. He is well off, if not wealthy, and the mothers are both relatively impecunious and would have been eligible for legal aid had it been available. Mostyn J considered that the interests of justice required that the mothers be represented and that the only source of funds was the father. He therefore ordered the donor father to pay the bulk of the costs of the proceedings, both his own and that of the mothers. “It could be said that it is grossly unfair that JF should have to pay now £20,596 plus 80% of the future therapeutic costs up to the IRH. But that is where the government has left him. It is a sorry state of affairs.” (para 36).
Filed under Family, LASPO
On Friday last week, the High Court gave judgment in Rights of Women, R (On the Application Of) v The Lord Chancellor And Secretary of State for Justice  EWHC 35 (Admin), a challenge to the evidence requirements (contained in regulation 33 of the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012) that must be met before legal aid in private family law proceedings can be granted based on the domestic violence exceptions.
Despite evidence of the impact the restrictions were having in practice, the Court found that they were lawful. The principal argument put forward was that, in making the regulations, the Lord Chancellor was acting outside the scope of the powers granted under LASPO. Lang J (with whom Fulford LJ agreed) said:
The LAA have now posted the following documents on their crime tenders page:
The e-tendering portal is now open and any questions must be submitted by noon on 15th December. FAQs will be published on 22nd December. The tender closes on 29th January, but outcomes will not be made known until June 2015, leaving successful bidders less than three months – over the summer – to make the necessary changes to their businesses by the start date of 1st October. There must be serious doubts as to whether this is realistic.
This is the indicative timetable:
- Procurement process opens and available via the LAA’s eTendering portal 27 November 2014
- Final date to submit questions about this procurement process 12 noon on 15 December 2015
- Final ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ to be published 22 December 2015
- Deadline for submission of Tenders 12 noon on 29 January 2015
- Notification of outcome of Duty Provider Contract Tenders June 2015
- Contract execution and Contract Start Date June 2015
- Mobilisation period June to September 2015
- Service Commencement Date 1 October 2015
The Lord Chancellor has just made a written statement to Parliament on criminal legal aid, following the recent consultation.
This is what he said:
I am today publishing the Government response to the “Transforming Legal Aid: Crime Duty Contracts” consultation published on 24 September. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
This consultation was specifically about the reports produced by KPMG LLP and Otterburn Legal Consulting regarding the legal aid litigator market, which helped inform decisions on the number of criminal legal aid duty contracts to be offered across England and Wales in 2015. We have thoroughly reviewed all the responses received.
As a result, the Legal Aid Agency will let 527 crime duty contracts. This has been revised from 525. The LAA is also today issuing an Invitation to Tender for those organisations eligible to apply for a 2015 Duty Provider Crime Contract. Contracts have already been awarded for own client work, the other type of criminal legal aid contract we announced in February.
To provide further help to firms in rural areas, we have decided to introduce payments for travelling times in excess of 90 minutes. We will also relax the office requirements in the split procurement areas and London to give greater flexibility. This builds on the support measures introduced earlier, such as introducing interim payments for lawyers involved in lengthy Crown Court cases and establishing a business partnering network to help practitioners with organisational and financial advice, if they need it. We have also worked with the British Business Bank to develop guidance and advice specifically for the legal aid market.
I have previously informed the House that a second fee reduction for litigators is forecast for mid 2015. The Legal Aid Agency are inviting bidders to bid on the basis that the fee reduction will take place in July, subject to the further considerations we have already said we will undertake.
The government’s consultation response is here. The ITT is not yet on the LAA website but we will post it when it becomes available.
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.