Legal aid news update – 18 August 2014

  • Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, has ruled that in private law cases the court may step in to pay for a party’s legal representation where the Legal Aid Agency refuse to do so. The judgment has been described as a challenge to the government and as creating a shadow legal aid scheme. It was widely reported in the legal and national media.
  • The Upper Tribunal expressed its disappointment that a claimant was refused legal aid and therefore had to rely on pro bono representation – see paragraph 62 of this judgment.   
  • A criminal trial at Shropshire Crown Court was adjourned by the judge because the Legal Aid Agency had not yet granted legal aid, despite the application having been made in June.
  • A family law judge criticised the Legal Aid Agency for being “disorganised” and for disregarding a judicial decision regarding whether a particular witness qualified as an expert.
  • It has been reported that legal aid family law firms could face a £100m fall in fees, based on analysis of Legal Aid Agency data.
  • Anita Hurrell of Coram Children’s Legal Centre argues that the government should abandon its plan to introduce a residence test for civil legal aid, following the High Court judgment last month that it was unlawful.  
  • The Independent reported that lawyers, as well as their clients, may suffer as a result of legal aid cuts, and the relationship between solicitors and barristers could break down.
  • Comments by the chairman of the Bar Council, Nicholas Lavender QC, about the “striking” cuts to civil legal aid were picked up by local press from Belfast to Hartlepool.
  • And finally, YLAL’s own Camilla Graham Wood featured with her colleague and fellow Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award winner Matt Foot in a fantastic interview for Legal Action Group.