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Civil Legal Aid Scope Cuts - MOJ Review

 Civil Legal Aid Scope Cuts Announced

The 14th February 2011 could become a modern day, Valentine Day's Massacre of the Legal Aid Scheme.

It has major implications for Access to Justice and yet again undermines the sustainability of Legal Aid law firms.

A lot of work is taken out of scope of legal aid entirely and that which remains will be subject to 10% cuts in fees paid.

Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, has announced proposals for radical scope cuts in Civil Legal Aid.

The aim is to provide legal aid only if life and liberty are at risk.

The proposals, which will be open for consultation until 14th Feb 2011, could wipe out up to £350m in fees from the revenue of legal aid firms.

The areas of work affected by the cuts will be:

 

  • Consumer

 

  • Education - school exclusions

 

  • Employment,

 

  • Debt

 

  • Housing

 

  • Family - Private - Divorce etc

 

  • Immigration where no detention

 

Protected areas

 

It would appear that funding will still be available in the following types of case

 

 

  • Immigration -Asylum
  • Mental health
  • Community Care
  • Public Law
  • Debt and housing where someone's home is at immediate risk
  • Family - Public Law Childen
  • Family - Domestic Violence
  • Family - Child Abduction
  • Family - Forced Marriage
  • Mediation

 

 

Contributory Legal Help returns

It seems that contributory legal help, not seen since the days of the "Green Form", may return.

Anyone with assets worth more than £1,000 will have to pay at least £100 towards their legal

costs.

 

Here is an example of the detailed changes proposed in the assessment of eligibility:

 

"For contested property cases we therefore propose to:

  • abolish the equity disregard (consistent with our proposal for non-contested cases);

 

  • retain the 'subject matter of the dispute' disregard for Legal Help, Help at Court, Family Help (lower), Family Mediation, and Controlled Legal Representation in Immigration and Asylum cases, but cap this at the first £100,000 of disputed assets (which is currently uncapped); and

 

  • retain the existing £100,000 'subject matter of the dispute' disregard for Family Help (higher) and Legal Representation.

 

The full proposals can be read on the Minstry of Justice web site at:

 

https://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/legal-aid-reform-151110.htm

 

Fees Cut again

Fees paid in civil and family cases will also be cut "by 10% across the board",

There will be similar cuts in experts' fees that are allowed.

 

CFA Reform

It is anticipated that Clinical Negligence and other cases falling out of scope would be pursued under CFA and hence Access to Justice preserved.

However these No win, no fee conditional fee arrangements (CFAs) will also be reformed

"The key proposal is to abolish recoverability of success fees and the associated after- the-event insurance premiums,"

Claimants "should have to pay their lawyer's success fee and will therefore take an interest in controlling the costs being incurred on their behalf", he said.