News in brief – 09.07.2020

Legal aid system up and running again

After several days of problems, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) reported yesterday that the Client and Costs Management System (CCMS) was now back working, so suppliers could submit claims as normal.

“We will monitor the system closely and respond to any issues. Once again, we apologise for the disruption you may have experienced over the past week,” the agency said.

Meanwhile, the government confirmed in Parliament recently that it would in future allow firms to make four claims a year for ongoing cases – the limit is currently two – as part of the LAA’s coronavirus support. “This will be implemented once the necessary updates to infrastructure are completed, and the impact of this change will be kept under review,” said Lord Keen, who speaks for the Ministry of Justice in the House of Lords.


Relief from sanctions granted for seven-year-old oversight

A High Court judge has granted relief from sanctions over a claimant’s failure in March 2013 to inform the defendants in a construction dispute that it had entered into a conditional fee agreement and after-the-event (ATE) insurance until proceedings were issued in 2020. The letter of claim was issued in June 2014 and the parties embarked on the pre-action protocol.

According to a Lawtel report of Perryman Properties Ltd v Barker Shorten Architects LLP, the claimant accepted that the failure to inform the defendant – as was required pre-Jackson – was the result of an oversight by its solicitor and that there was no good reason for it.

However, “viewing matters with a degree of realism”, Mr Justice Fraser found that the defendants had failed to show any particular prejudice from the failure to disclose the funding arrangements.

The report continued: “It was clear from the pre-action protocol process and what had happened since that the defendants intended to defend the claim. Taking account of the level of ATE cover, the amount of the claim, the history of the pre-action protocol process, and all the other circumstances, it was appropriate to grant relief from sanctions in respect of the second and future instalments of the ATE premium and CFA uplift, subject to an undertaking by the claimant to give the defendants 42 days’ notice of any future increase of cover and associated premium under the ATE policy.”

Thomas Elias (instructed by Clarke Mairs) for the claimant, with Jonathan Lewis (instructed by Beale & Co) for the defendants.


New date for London Legal Walk as virtual fundraiser is also launched

The London Legal Walk, which last year raised a record £890,000 for legal advice charities in the capital and South-East, will take place on 5 October, after it was postponed last month due to Covid-19. For all the details, click here.

With all the other legal walks around the country cancelled, meanwhile, the Access to Justice Foundation has replaced them with a new fundraising campaign, ‘Go the Extra Mile for Justice’

Participants are tasked with travelling a number of miles in any form they like, from walking to running, skipping, cycling or even hopping. For every mile they complete, participants can ask friends and family to sponsor a mile each, with a suggested donation of £10 per mile.

The initiative is designed to challenge each participant individually, giving them the flexibility to raise funds in their own time, at their own pace and to suit their own capabilities.

The foundation is aiming for a combined total distance of 20,000 miles to be covered by the end of 2020.

“Postponing this year’s walks was a tough decision, especially at a time when legal advice centres are experiencing an increase in demand on their services due to the pandemic,” said Laura Cassidy, development and fundraising manager at the Access to Justice Foundation. “We know that so many people in the legal profession are passionate about access to justice, so we’re hoping that as many people as possible will join in the challenge and help us raise the vital funds that we would have made during the walks.”

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Costs News
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09 Jul 2020

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