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Tag Archive | "civil legal aid"

Civil legal aid

Legal aid will no longer be made available for cases with poor or borderline prospects of success that may have received funding, the government has said.

Last week the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) announced that there would be a new approach to making decisions on prospects of success for ‘poor’ and ‘borderline’ cases. The LAA has changed its approach to assessing merits in civil legal aid to take account of the Court of Appeal judgment in The Director of Legal Aid Casework (DLAC) and Lord Chancellor v IS. The Court of Appeal ruled last month that the agency’s exceptional case funding scheme and merits regulations were lawful.

Although the Court of Appeal ruled in the lord chancellor’s favour, several observations were made about the government’s exceptional case funding scheme. The LAA said that the MoJ was considering what steps to take following the court’s findings.

Under the current merits criteria most cases need to pass a ‘prospects of success test’ before legal aid can be made available. The LAA said:

“The merits criteria state that the prospects of success test is met in cases with ‘poor’ prospects or ‘borderline’ cases where:

  • funding is necessary to prevent a breach of a client’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, or any rights of a client to the provision of civil legal aid or services that are enforceable under EU law; or
  • DLAC considers it appropriate to find that the test is met having regard to any risk of such a breach.”

The change comes as a result of the Court of Appeal finding that it is lawful for the prospects of success test to have a 50% threshold, and this does not breach a client’s rights. “As a result, we are now no longer funding any applications for civil legal aid that are subject to a prospects of success test where the prospects are assessed as poor or borderline,” the LAA said.

The LAA added: “We have also reinstated delegated functions to allow providers to refuse legal aid in cases that they assess as having poor or borderline prospects. This allows Immigration providers to refuse applications for controlled legal representation in these matters without having to revert to us first.”

The ‘Gazette’ reports the Law Society as saying that the change could mean fewer people being entitled to legal aid. “We are therefore disappointed that the Ministry of Justice decided to announce this significant change so soon after the referendum, and without consultation,” a spokesperson for the Society said.

Posted in Civil LawComments (0)

“Access to justice should be considered a fundamental right” – Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on the government to initiate an immediate review of cuts to civil legal aid.

The coalition government reduced the scope of civil legal aid through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo) and has committed to a review of the policy by April 2018.

The reforms reduced spending on civil legal aid by £300m a year, but the National Audit Office last year said the wider costs to the public sector had not been factored in because the Ministry of Justice did not anticipate how people would respond to the changes.

Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Legal AidComments (0)

Residency test

The Administrative Court has declared that the proposed residence test for civil legal aid is discriminatory and unlawful, following a successful judicial review challenge against the Secretary of State for Justice. In a damning unanimous decision, three senior judges declared the draft regulations now before parliament cannot be enacted by means of secondary legislation.

The case was brought by the Public Law Project, a national legal charity that promotes access to justice. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Legal Practice ManagementComments (0)

PCT is dead

In another major U-turn, justice secretary Chris Grayling today confirmed that he has abandoned Price Competitive Tendering (PCT). This would have awarded contracts to the lowest bidder and was a central plank of the Ministry of Justice’s cost-cutting criminal legal aid reforms. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (1)

Advice deserts

Last Monday civil legal aid became no longer available for cases involving divorce, child custody, clinical negligence, welfare, employment, immigration, housing, debt, benefit and education. Someone with an odd sense of humour decided that April 1st was an appropriate date. Read the full story

Posted in Law Updates, Legal AidComments (0)

LASPO implemented – or not?

From Monday a range of new criminal offences and sentences introduced in LASPO came into effect.

The new offences include a mandatory life sentence for people convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent offence, aggravated knife possession, causing serious injury by dangerous driving, measures to strengthen community sentences and tough new sentences for hate crime. Justice secretary Chris Grayling said: “Criminals should be in no doubt they will be punished for their crimes, with those who commit the most serious offences receiving the most severe sentences.” Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Law Updates, Legal AidComments (0)

Civil legal aid in the Lords

After the battering the Government’s legal aid proposals took in the Commons it was the turn of the Lords to sink their teeth in when the proposals were the subject of a debate last Thursday.

Opening the debate, Lord Beeching pointed out that the Government’s Green Paper on legal aid reform Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Law Updates, Legal AidComments (0)

Reaction to legal aid green paper – Part 2

The number of people who will lose out on access to civil legal advice services if the legal aid cuts are implemented was quoted as 502,000 in the Ministry of Justice’s impact assessment on scope changes published in support of the green paper. A significant number in all conscience, but the Legal Action Group believe that Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Law Updates, Legal AidComments (0)

Law Society prepares for legal action over civil tender results

The Law Society found itself on the horns of a dilemma when the recent tender for civil and family legal aid work sparked a row with the LSC. Just over half the firms bidding for family contracts were successful, and the Society says this means businesses will close and people may find it difficult to get a lawyer, especially in rural areas. The new contracts are due to start on 14 October. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Legal AidComments (0)

Review of experts costs in legal aid work

The Ministry of Justice has announced a further analysis of expert witness fees paid in legal aid work. It is seeking the support of civil and criminal legal aid solicitors in a data collection exercise being conducted on their behalf by the Legal Services Commission. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Law Updates, Legal AidComments (0)

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