YLAL Meeting Minutes 09.03.2016

Attendees: Ollie, Rachel, Imogen, Aileen, Tara, Nathan, Gimhani, Max, Alicia, Amarjeet, Hannah, Regina and more

1. Welcome and introduction

2. Update on legal aid cases

Residence Test
Our guest speaker Alison Pickup, junior counsel on the Public Law Project’s challenge to the residence test for civil legal aid, joined us and spoke about the case’s path through the courts so far. PLP were successful in their challenge in the divisional court, however the Court of Appeal overturned this.

Public Law Project applied to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal the judgment of the Court of Appeal, and for a Protective Costs Order. Both were granted on 26 February 2016, and PLP’s liability for costs is now set at £15,000. The Supreme Court has now listed the case for 18 and 19 April 2016, when seven Supreme Court judges will hear the case.

Alison pointed us toward the useful table (page 23 onwards) at end of the divisional court judgment which shows which areas would be exempt and therefore still able to get legal aid.

She also pointed out that those excluded from residence test could still apply for Exceptional Case Funding, and told us that the case of IS, the challenge to the Exceptional Case Funding scheme, is due to be heard in Court of Appeal quite soon.

PLP has a fighting fund for this case, please contribute, or ask your firm to contribute; any amount great or small will help!

Rights of Women challenge to domestic violence eligibility criteria
Ollie updated us – Judgment was handed down on 18 February 2016 and it was held that the regulations introduced were unlawful insofar as they required victims of domestic violence to provide evidence from within the last 2 years, as well as there being no provision for victims of financial abuse. You can read the judgment here.

At the time of our meeting, an order in the Rights of Women domestic violence case had not yet been received from the Court, however RoW press release says that the 24 month time limit for evidence will be removed, and they are waiting for government to decide how to change evidence on financial abuse.

YLAL will be hosting the director of Rights of Women, Emma Scott, at our meeting next month, on Wednesday 13 April 2016 (see more below).

3. Criminal legal aid update

Aine reminded us that on 28 January 2016 the Ministry of Justice confirmed that it would not be introducing two tier contracts, and the second cut of 8.75% was suspended until 2017. She gave us an overview of the current position of duty solicitor slots being allocated to solicitors, not firms. YLAL’s current position is that slots should stay with the practitioner.

If you are or you know a criminal practitioner, please contact us as we want your views. Please complete our survey by Thursday 31 March. Alternatively, send us your views by email to crimeylal@gmail.com.

4. Labour Party legal aid review – call for evidence

Phil told us that the Labour Party legal aid review is now calling for written evidence. The call for evidence is here.

We need to submit our response by 29 April 2016. Would you like to volunteer to help us to prepare our response? If so, join our YLAL Campaigns group.

5. Meeting with Shailesh Vara (Minister for Legal Aid)

Rachel and Ollie met with Shailesh Vara, Minister for Legal Aid on 17 March 2016, and will feedback at the next London meeting on 13 April 2016.

6. SRA consultation on the proposed Solicitors Qualifying Examination

Gimhani thanked all those who contributed to YLAL’s response, which has now been submitted. You can read it here.

7. All Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid update

The last meeting was 9 March 2016. The meeting was to present research papers prepared by Ipsos Mori, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, regarding access to justice. The first, The Varying Paths to Justice, interviewed 114 people about their experience in accessing advice and support. The next was Survey of Not for Profit Legal Advice Providers in England and Wales. This showed a mixed picture. Finally, Mark Fenhalls QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, discussed The composition and remuneration of junior barristers under the Advocates’ Graduate Fee Scheme in criminal legal aid.

You can read a summary of the papers, produced by Legal Aid Practitioners’ Group here.

We will update members about the next meeting of the APPG on Legal Aid once it has bee arranged. Please join our APPG subgroup if you would like to get involved.

8. YLAL outside London

YLAL Kent last met on Saturday 12 March and hosted Emma Cooke, a PhD student whose thesis concerns the “changing occupational terrain of the Legal aid lawyer in times of precariousness”.

YLAL North met in Liverpool on 10 March, and considered the current situation in the legal aid and advice sector and what action we can and should take to improve access to justice and assist young lawyers as they begin their legal aid career.

YLAL South West’s next meeting will be in May or June following their successful launch in February.

9. Blogs

We have two blogs, featured in this month’s Legal Action. Please submit your stories to View from the Gravy Train and Thanks to Legal Aid.

10. AOB

If you can get your hands on a Legal Action magazine, have a look at Page 12 which gives a “litigating to save legal aid” summary of where we’re up to with current or recent challenges.

You can also see page 16 for YLAL’s article of 10 reasons to be positive about legal aid.

Our recent change in our Jobs policy was also discussed. To recap, YLAL has decided not to advertise jobs which do not advertise a salary or salary range.