With the Ministry of Justice confirming that a review of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) will begin shortly, a leading legal charity has called on the Lord Chancellor Liz Truss to make the Client and Costs Management System (CCMS) part of the process.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said it would submit a post-legislative memorandum for LASPO as a whole to Parliament in the next few months. “We will then begin work on the review looking in depth at the legal aid changes.”
The Public Law Project recently wrote to Ms Truss with a “non-exhaustive list of areas of particular concern” that it thought the review should cover.
While recognising that CCMS was not directly a result of LASPO, “it presented an opportunity to streamline and modernise applications to the benefit of clients, providers and the LAA [Legal Aid Agency] alike,” the letter said.
“However, in practice its operation and poor functionality is a major barrier to access to legal aid. The experience of many providers, including PLP, is that errors are extremely common; the system is slow and cumbersome to operate; and that its systems and procedures add significantly to the administrative burden of legal aid cases. It represents a significant threat to the viability of legal aid practice.
“The problems posed by CCMS are exacerbated by the fact that delegated powers are not available in most areas of law post-LASPO, subject to narrow exceptions. Thus, even in dealing with urgent matters, including those where individuals’ life or liberty is at risk or children are at risk of losing a roof over their heads, providers often have to make an application to the LAA before they can commence work. That is so even in relation to judicial review applications where, as a result of the payment regulations referred to above, all the risk at the initial stages of a case is carried by the provider.”
Other issues raised by the Public Law Project included the scope of legal aid, inaccessibility of the exceptional case funding scheme and the judicial review payment regulations.
Picture credit: Gareth Milner
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