General meeting to consider future direction of ACL
Members should have received notice last week of a general meeting of the ACL being held on 21 February.
It will consider whether the CLSB should be completely severed from the ACL to ensure full separation of regulatory and representative activities, and whether to open up membership of the representative arm to all costs professionals under the umbrella of the Association of Costs Lawyers and Practitioners.
It will be on 21 February at 4.30pm at De Vere Holborn Bars, 138-142 Holborn, London EC1N 2SW. Members unable to attend in person can appoint an attending member as a proxy, using the form sent out with the email.
For any queries, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Law Society launches PPE judicial review
The Law Society has issued proceedings against the Ministry of Justice to challenge its decision that the number of pages of prosecution evidence served on a defendant that their lawyers will be able to claim legal aid for is to be reduced from 10,000 to 6,000.
Law Society president Joe Egan said: “The government is cutting the payments made to defence lawyers for considering and responding to evidence served by the prosecution. Their justification for this cut is that electronic and social media evidence is not always relevant to the complexity of the case.
“However, it was exactly this social media evidence that defence lawyers had to examine in order to secure the exoneration of Liam Allen.”
The society said terror cases, fraud cases and serious historic sex cases required a large amount of work, “for which solicitors should be paid”.
Mr Egan added: “Disclosure of evidence is integral to a criminal investigation, and yet the defence in paper-heavy cases are being penalised. These arbitrary cuts could have a very detrimental impact on justice. We believe this is unlawful, and that’s why we’re taking the government to the High Court.”
In June 2017, the Law Society issued a practice note to legal aid solicitors specialising in criminal law reminding them that they can exercise their discretion when deciding to accept cases if the work threatens the viability of their firm.
CCMS changes to “improve quality” of FAS claims
The Legal Aid Agency has announced that changes have been made to Case and Costs Management System (CCMS) “to help improve the quality of the online claims you make under the Family Advocacy Scheme (FAS)”.
It said the idea was to make it “more likely” that claims would not be rejected. Improvements were being made to enforce fee scheme rules for hearings claimed under FAS.
These meant that it would no longer be possible to claim FAS hearing and bolt-on activities within the same category of work, and above allowed amounts per case.
“An example would be where a claim for a third advocates’ bundle for an interim hearing is claimed. Where this happens, CCMS will now display an error message and will not allow the bill to progress.”
CCMS will also prevent issues such as claiming for an interim hearing and final hearing advocates’ bundle on the same day, and over-claiming of counsel conference fees.
The agency suggested that counsel and providers may need to check with another where court bundles were being claimed to ensure the correct information was entered.
“In the event of issues, the first action should be to liaise with the instructed parties on a case. This is preferable to calling the Legal Aid Agency to check who has claimed the bundle.”