This post is by Jane Pritchard, consultant with Elawvate and author of the CCMS chapter in the Handbook.
This week, the LAA have issued two news items about CCMS.
The first update is headed “speeding up dual stage applications”. There is no new process here. Instead this is about getting the evidence requirements right when you choose which application to make. As we say in the Handbook, if you can make a single stage emergency application rather than dual stage you should use that process. Don’t forget however that if you are likely to need to amend your application before a substantive one is granted, the dual stage application enables you to make amendments to scope and limitation – in which case that process might be better.
There appears to be an issue with nullification of applications where evidence is unavailable and or not submitted to the LAA within the 5 working days allowed for submitting the substantive application. This update confirms that no certificate will be nullified where use of delegated functions can be justified by the evidence submitted with the emergency or substantive applications. Of course, the more information provided with the substantive application the better, even if it is a summary of all actions taken to obtain the evidence and the justification for the use of delegated functions based on the evidence available at the time.
The second news update is a change to process which all providers will welcome. It is now possible to upload supporting documentation when you make an application for prior authority at the point of making the application. This cuts out the need for the LAA to send a request to upload information and then for you to respond to that request – which delays the grant of prior authority. The CCMS quick guide on the LAA website has full details of how to submit an application attaching the evidence. The guide can be found here.
The new LAG Legal Aid Handbook 2018/19 is out now – featuring full coverage of the civil and criminal schemes, fully revised and updated and including the 2018 civil contract. This edition includes brand new chapters on CCMS and community care, specialist chapters on housing, family, mental health, immigration and crime work, and greatly expanded coverage of civil costs. Written by a team of legal aid experts and edited by Vicky Ling, Simon Pugh and Sue James, it’s the one book no legal aid lawyer can afford to be without. Order your copy here now.
Lord Bach’s Access to Justice Commission has published its final report, available here. It is a detailed and thoughtful report, which should provoke further debate about the impact on access to justice – and particularly those who can’t get it – following the reforms of recent years. There is a lengthy list of recommendations, which fall into three main categories:
- The creation of a new statutory enforceable “right to justice” and the creation of a Justice Commission
- Reform of the legal aid scheme, including widening and simplifying the means test and contributions, increasing legal aid scope to restore most family, some immigration, and cases involving children, as well as reforms to judicial review, inquest and exceptional case funding, and replacing the LAA with an independent body and simplifying administration
- Wider and better public legal education and a universal advice and information portal.
Sir Henry Brooke, the retired Court of Appeal judge, was one of the commissioners. Since the publication of the report he has posted a series of blogs, well worth reading, looking at some of the background to the Commission’s recommendations.
The major parties have now published their manifestos for the forthcoming general election. This is what they have to say about legal aid.
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
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.
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.
The Court of Appeal recently decided that the existing domestic abuse gateway to private law family legal aid was unlawful because:
- It only permitted evidence within the last two years;
- It had no mechanism for proving financial abuse.
In a written statement to Parliament today, the minister gave the government’s response.
It has laid new regulations, coming into force on Monday 25 April, extending the two year period to five years, and including provision for financial abuse. It will also review the needs of victims of domestic abuse with a view to developing “evidence based” replacement regulations in the long term.
Our co-editor Anthony Edwards – responsible for the crime sections of the Handbook – has produced a new edition with Colin Beaumont of his book on criminal costs. Criminal Costs: Legal Aid Costs in the Criminal Courts is a comprehensive guide to the incredibly complex world of criminal costs, with full discussion of all the regulations, contracts and caselaw. It is fully up to date, including the 1 April 2016 changes, a perfect companion to the Handbook, and a vital addition to the bookshelf of any criminal practitioner. You can buy the paper copy here and the e-book here.