The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (“LASPO”)
LASPO represents the most profound change in the provision of Legal Aid for decades. It repealed the Legal Aid aspects of the Access to Justice Act 1999 and brought in an entirely new statutory regime from 1 April 2013.
The Legal Services Commission closed on 31 March 2013 and on 1 April 2013 its replacement, the Legal Aid Agency came into existence.
Cases started before 1 April 2013 remain subject to the Access to Justice Act regime whereas cases started on or after 1 April 2013 are subject to the new LASPO regime.
The Access to Justice Act provided that work was “in scope” unless specifically excluded by the Act.
LASPO provides that only work specifically included in Schedule 1 is “in scope”.
Unfortunately, Schedule 1, which sets out what work will be in scope, is not easily understood; it requires a certain amount of cross-referencing and navigation of double negatives in order to understand whether a case is in fact in or out of scope.
When considering whether a case is in scope solicitors will need to check that it is included in Part One (of Schedule 1) but is not excluded by Part Two and that the venue is included in Part Three if advocacy services are to be provided.
In addition to LASPO the changes are governed by various sets of regulations including the Civil Legal Aid Procedure Regulations 2012 and the Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) Regulations 2013 in addition to the Remuneration Regs and the Legal Aid Eligibility Regs.
LASPO provides exceptionally for legal aid to be approved for a case that falls outside the scope of Legal Aid. The Exceptional Cases Funding team has been set up to handle applications made under this provision.
The LAA is expecting an average of 6,500 applications per annum for Exceptional Cases Funding and there is a new form ECF1 which will need to state the case as to why a particular matter is exceptional. However, there is no payment for any work done until such time as the application succeeds.
Completed applications for an Exceptional Case Determination must be sent to the ECF Team and they can be posted or sent by email.
ECF Team contact information:
Legal Aid Agency, Post Point 6.54, Sixth Floor, 102 Petty France, London SW1H 9AJ
DX: 161440 Westminster 8. Tel: 0203 334 6060 Email: ECF@legalaid.gsi.gov.uk
The Lord Chancellor issued Guidance on Civil Legal Aid to the Director of Legal Aid Casework to assist in determining whether an applicant qualifies for civil legal services. The document itself is some 61 pages in length and can be located using the following link:
The Law Society also recently launched a new survey on the impact to solicitors of LASPO.
The Society is looking for examples where legal aid practitioners have been forced to turn away clients due to the cuts in Legal Aid funding. The Society will use the survey responses to monitor the impact of LASPO and collect data on family cases in particular.
To access the survey go to:
Jim Knight, Partner and Costs Lawyer
29 April 2013