The new Access to Justice Commission: Update 6 (The Law Society)

Roger Miller, The Law Society’s Head of Legal Aid, was our first witness.He gave evidence on 19th January 2016, and six weeks later The Law Society approved a Written Submission based on his opening statement.  The full submission can be found on The Law Society’s website.

I start this long blog by summarising parts of The Law Society’s submission and setting out some sections of it in full.  I end it by summarising some of the answers Richard Miller gave to questions from Commissioners.

 

Richard Miller’s CV

Richard Miller qualified as a solicitor in 1992, and worked for 8 years in a small high street legal aid firm in Kent. In 2000, he became the first full time director of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, where he was responsible for preparing the Group’s policy responses to a whole host of Government consultations on changes to the legal aid system.

In August 2007, he became Head of Legal Aid at the Law Society, where he implemented the Society’s Access to Justice Review and led the work preparing the organisation’s responses to the Government’s cuts programme and the Society’s campaign against Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

 

The Law Society’s Submission to the Access to Justice Commission (part summary, part full text)

Extracts from Section 1: Introduction

Now is an opportune time to consider wider questions about what legal aid could and should be and who should be eligible. Technological developments hold out prospects for new ways of delivering legal services to wider sections of the population than those who have typically been able to afford to pay for them privately. Whilst accepting that there will be clients who for various reasons will always need face to face legal advice, a future legal aid system may be able to legally enfranchise a larger section of the population without necessarily incurring greater costs.

Extracts from Section 2: The Originating principles of legal aid

We re-affirm the philosophy behind the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949 that nobody should be unable to enforce or defend a right for want of the advice and representation they need to do so effectively.

Section 3: Societal benefits of access to justice (full text)

It is important to emphasise the benefit to everyone of ensuring that ordinary people can secure justice.

The rule of law cannot be maintained if some people cannot enforce their rights; the rich and powerful would have no reason to respect them, and the two-nation justice system that the Lord Chancellor has committed to remove would become irreversible.

If ordinary people feel they can obtain justice from our courts, there will be greater public trust in the mechanisms of justice. This reduces the likelihood of people taking the law into their own hands – this risk was recognised by the MoJ in their impact assessments of the LASPO legal aid cuts. The Cumulative Impact Assessment attached to the government’s Green Paper stated that the proposed cuts run the risk of reduced social cohesion, increased criminality, reduced business and economic efficiency, and increased resource costs and transfer payments for other Government departments.

As well as maintaining the rule of law, protecting access to justice and supporting a return to a one nation justice system, there is some evidence that just outcomes in courts and tribunals lead to lower social provision costs for central and local government. If someone gets redress for being unfairly dismissed, they will be less reliant on state benefits. If they avoid being evicted, they won’t have to turn to local authority homelessness services. Compensation for injuries caused by someone else’s negligence can reduce the burden on the NHS. Ensuring that the wealthier partner in a separating couple provides properly for the family can substantially reduce that family’s reliance on the State. Analysis from Citizen’s Advice undertaken in 2010 calculated that significant savings arose as a result of legal aid provision due to the prevention of adverse consequences such as physical ill health, stress related illness, relationship breakdown, moving costs and the effect of loss of employment on GDP. For example, spending £24 million on welfare benefits advice generated net savings to the state of £188m.

In addition, there is a growing body of evidence of a link between social welfare law problems and health outcomes. We believe the case is developing that advice services should be commissioned as part of the range of services health commissioners procure in seeking to achieve their health targets. We also believe there may be a case for seeking to align the delivery of health and social welfare advice services, for example by GPs working with local solicitors to provide an advice clinic in the surgery.

Extracts from Section 4: The value of lawyers

After setting out a number of reasons why the assistance of a lawyer is essential in different situations, the submission continued:

For all of these reasons, we say that access to justice must entail access to a lawyer – not necessarily in every case, but the option must be there if more informal means of resolving disputes are to be taken seriously, and the formal means are to be effective.

It is a matter of concern to the Law Society that the proposal in the Briggs Review for an Online Court is couched in terms of making lawyers unnecessary altogether, as lawyers would not be required to draft pleadings or to perform advocacy.  Ordinary people will still need help in understanding whether they have a valid claim, identifying and assembling the evidence they will need in order to prove it, and how to go about resolving it.  They will often need assistance in seeking to negotiate a resolution without going to Court.  And they will need advice on how to access the Courts if that is the right solution for them.

We would prefer to see the debate conducted in terms of “what help do people need?” rather than “Can we get rid of lawyers?”

Section 5: Technology (full text)

The Briggs review is an interesting example of how the answer to the question of what people need in order to be able to get justice is being changed by technology. The proposed Online Court will completely alter the way litigants in some civil cases engage with the justice system, and what assistance they may need.

That assistance will include legal advice and assistance, but may well include other forms of support.  The Briggs Review quite properly places heavy emphasis on the need to ensure that alongside the Online Court, there is an “Assisted Digital Service” to provide comprehensive technical help to those who need it, and has laid down the marker that it will need to be publicly funded.  Any review of the legal aid system will need to consider how to ensure that clients who are unable to afford to pay for that support are nonetheless able to get it.  It may prove that the most cost-effective approach is for lawyers to provide the necessary combination of legal and technical advice and assistance that clients need.

In the family sphere, work is underway on an English version of the Dutch “Rechtwijzer” system, to help separating couples try to reach agreement, either alone or with mediation, or to get an adjudication on areas of dispute they are unable to resolve.  This is likely to be a game-changer for family litigation.  As with the Online Court, it is likely that those using the service will need some legal assistance at different stages.  It will be important to work out what help is required and when.  Also as with the Online Court, it will be important both at the outset and during the life of a case to have mechanisms to identify when a case is, or becomes, unsuitable for that approach, and to direct parties to such legal services as they may need.

Both of these developments are at too early a stage to answer in detail what kind of support, and what kind of funding, might be needed to ensure they deliver justice to their full potential.

One recent development in the delivery of legal services is semi-automated and automated services.  For example, clients can purchase kits that will assist them in preparing a divorce petition, which they can use alone.  Alternatively, for a higher fee, they can purchase the kit and receive a defined amount of support in completing the forms.  There is a whole spectrum from pure self-help to highly tailored legal advice falling short of a full casework service.

Legal aid is still predicated on the model of the solicitor providing the full casework service.  If however a legal aid eligible client is willing and able to use a supported self-help model, and their solicitor considers them to be capable of doing so, a system that is flexible enough to fund this level of service could properly meet the client’s needs at a potentially lower cost compared to traditional legal service provision.

Another area where technology has a major role to play is in increasing the efficiency with which lawyers deliver their services, and therefore reducing both their own costs of delivery and the amount of time they have to spend with clients.  For example, the use of online forms can reduce the time spent in an initial interview.  Case progression systems which the client can access might reduce the number of calls the client makes to the solicitor.  Document drafting in a shared space where both the solicitor and client can access the document may improve the speed and efficiency of completing pleadings and statements.

Within the world of legal aid, there is a reasonable case to say that such developments might well make the work more financially viable, but there is a question mark over whether solicitors are able to afford the investment in technology needed to achieve the longer term benefits.  Moreover, it is quite likely, in our view, that there is scope for innovation among our members to produce bespoke technological solutions that reflect their businesses and meet the needs of their clients.

The Society is therefore looking into whether there might be scope for an innovation fund, whereby grant funders would make grants to firms that have ideas for ways of using technology to improve access to justice.  There is a precedent for this in the form of the Partnership Initiative Budget which used to operate under the Legal Services Commission. We are still in the early stages of considering this idea, but our initial thinking is that such a fund might be generated from a combination of private, third sector and public sector sources.

Section 6: The role of Government (full text) 

The approach to health and the approach to justice have been interestingly different since 1949.  In health, the approach is that we all may need health services, we all benefit from having a healthy population, and that it is in the national interest that we have a health service that is free at the point of delivery.  With minor exceptions such as prescription charges and copayments in dentistry, there is no suggestion that those who use the health service should be means tested, and either excluded from getting help or required to pay substantial contributions.

With justice, the approach has been that the Government should be a funder of last resort, once all other options have been found wanting.  Unfortunately, since LASPO, in many fields of law the Government has even abandoned its position as a funder of last resort. One big mistake of LASPO was to assume that if legal aid funding was withdrawn, alternatives would somehow emerge.  Generally speaking, they have not.  In particular, the ongoing belief that not for profit advice services and pro bono can plug the gaps that have emerged is wholly misconceived.  A recent Ministry of Justice analysis of Not for Profit (NfP) provision demonstrates a decrease in NfP advice providers from 3,226 centres in 2005 to 1,462 centres in 2014/15. The numbers have declined by over 50% in 10 years.

Examples of how this “funder of last resort” approach manifests itself include:

  • Ever tightening means tests;
  • Requirements within the system to explore private options for funding before legal aid will be made available, even where the individual meets the means test;
  • The removal of legal aid for personal injury and clinical negligence work in favour of conditional fee agreements;
  • The high threshold in LASPO of threats to life, health, home or liberty, or breaches of rights under the European Convention on Human Rights if assistance is not provided, before funding will even be considered;

The decision to approach justice on the basis that the Government should be a funder of last resort is a political choice.  Other countries make different choices.  For example, the Dutch Legal Aid Counters are set up so that everyone is entitled to some help, across a wide range of legal areas, regardless of means.

We do not currently seek to argue against the proposition that funding from the Government should be funding of last resort, but it must actually be available when there is no other realistic option. We would argue that currently, in many cases where that last resort has been reached, the Government has failed to fund services that are needed.

Issues raised in section 7: Eligibility

Eligibility thresholds are no longer routinely updated each year in line with inflation.

The legal aid means test only excludes the first £100,000 of equity and only allows £100,000 of mortgage debt.  This policy creates unfairnesses (described).

The current means test sometimes treats people as having money they do not have.

The contributions which people are asked to pay are unaffordable in many cases.

It is feared that with the arrival of Universal Credit all passporting on means will come to an end.  This will significantly raise the level of bureaucracy in the system.

Issues raised in Section 8: Simplification

The administration budget for the Legal Aid Agency remains at over £100 million per year, despite the legal aid budget having dropped by almost one quarter.

The capital means test creates a major administrative burden for legal aid practitioners.  It should be abandoned, and we should revert to full passporting for benefit claimants.

The rest of the means test including the income eligibility rules should also be reviewed with a view to seeking to simplify them.

The ‘threshold’ levels for criminal means testing are the same in the Crown Court and the magistrates’ court, although the mechanism is different.  In the magistrates’ court full legal aid is either granted or refused.  The means test in the crown court assesses a client’s ‘disposable income’ and if they are not entitled to full legal aid a monthly contribution is required.  The Society is concerned that the minimum income threshold levels in both courts are so low, that anyone who has monthly repayments on debts or who has other expenses not taken into account in the means test will be ineligible yet will not have the means to pay privately. In the crown court the level of monthly contributions demanded sometimes exceeds the cost of the case, and frequently exceeds the client’s ability to pay. In such cases clients either represent themselves or come to an arrangement with their solicitor to pay privately at a lower rate than normal.

The test for victims of domestic violence should be markedly improved.

Some of the demarcation lines in Schedule 1 Part 1 of LASPO are unclear, and the bureaucracy involved in policing these lines is out of all proportion to the small number of cases excluded by having the line at all.

A good example of this is housing law. Housing practitioners have repeatedly told us that they do not understand the demarcation lines in LASPO. For example, proceedings against landlords to remedy serious housing disrepair that has health implications for the tenant are in scope but damages for disrepair are not. Invariably a claim for specific performance will include a claim for damages but technically that aspect of the claim is not in scope, and providers find it difficult to demarcate the two. Unfortunately all requests for a clear statement from the LAA as to what does or does not fall within the scheme have met with a refusal.

The result of this is that in some cases, solicitors are having to undertake work on the basis that they will take a risk as to whether they will be paid, or whether the LAA will say at the end of the case that it was out of scope, leaving them with the choice of accepting the loss or pursuing an expensive appeal.

The LAA’s costs assessment and audit regimes often mean that solicitors find payments for work genuinely done, in good faith for eligible clients, are disallowed because of very minor and technical errors.

We have repeatedly argued that standard commercial contracts would not require such strict compliance with such a vast array of very technical rules, or such draconian penalties for minor breaches.  It makes no sense either for the contracting authority or the contractor.  The contract – if contracts there will continue to be – should be rewritten on sensible commercial terms, including provision for a “margin of error” which will not lead to any financial penalties for minor breaches in good faith.

The case for maintaining “matter starts” has been largely eliminated by the LASPO scope cuts.   Abandoning them would be sensible.

The lawfulness of the civil legal aid residence test is about to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.   One issue related to the residence test that we do not believe has had sufficient attention is that every single applicant for legal aid where the residence test applies, will have to produce documentary proof that they meet it.  This bureaucratic requirement will inevitably stop many more eligible people (including eligible British nationals) from getting legal aid than it stops people who are ineligible under this test.

We believe it is worth looking again at the fundamental point that legal aid currently works on the basis of paying individually for each of millions of pieces of advice provided. There is a precedent in the form of the old block contracting system for the not for profit sector where the provider was remunerated on the basis of caseworker hours rather than for each individual case.  Moving to a different approach would be a huge undertaking, and any alternative would no doubt have its own pros and cons.   We do not think it should be taken for granted that the current approach of separate accounting for every single case must continue.

Section 9 is concerned with the framing of  the political debate and myth-busting.

Section 10.  LASPO lobbying priorities in the current Parliament

Whilst The Law Society has opposed all legal aid scope cuts which disproportionately impact negatively on the most disadvantaged sectors of society, we recognise that there is little possibility of all cuts being reversed in by the current government. We have therefore focussed on some specific LASPO cuts and the Transforming Legal Aid changes as lobbying priorities for the current Parliament.

[Reasons are given for each of  these recommendations, some of which have already been given above]

  • Restoration of welfare benefits advice funding, particularly for Housing Benefit.
  • Restoring initial legal advice for family cases.
  • Relaxing the evidential burden on victims of domestic abuse seeking legal aid for family cases.
  • Opposing introduction of the civil legal aid residence test.
  • Abolition of the capital means test for means tested benefits claimants.
  • Abolishing the ‘at risk’ funding provisions for judicial review applications.

Section 11:  Criminal legal aid 

Criminal legal aid is a fast-changing area, and at the moment we do not think it appropriate to recommend a specific area for the review to examine, however please see the comments under the ‘means testing’ heading.

 

The Law Society’s submission was followed by three Appendices:

Appendix 1 – International comparisons of legal aid expenditure

Appendix 2 – Costs of restoring housing benefit advice

Appendix 3 – Compendium of Law Society policy on family legal aid

 

Richard Miller’s answers to questions by Commissioners  on 19th January 2016

The Legal Aid Agency’s freedom to run its business in an economically sensible manner

The Legal Aid Agency’s insistence that they are the keepers of the public purse is one of the things that has always annoyed me.  The National Audit Office is the keeper of the public purse.  The NAO has vetted how the LAA and its forerunners has gone about their business, but they have also been very clear indeed that what they are auditing is how the LAA has chosen to set its rules.  They say that if you have got a 300-page rule book we will judge you against the 300-page rule book.  If you have got a rule book that says actually we have a tolerance here because realistically that is how businesses have to operate, then the LAA will be audited by the NAO on the question whether they have judged everything within that 10% – or whatever it might be – tolerance, yes or no.   So the LAA has far more freedom from the NAO than they have ever imagined, and in fact would be far less likely to have their accounts audited if they had simpler systems.  So that’s what it comes back to, that actually there needs to be a much broader brush approach to this.

Financial Eligibility for Legal Aid in criminal cases

In terms of eligibility for example, when criminal eligibility was being considered a few years back, the stance that we took was that you have a perfectly good threshold already assessed, which is higher rate tax.  If someone is not a higher rate tax payer, they get legal aid.  If they’re a higher tax payer, they don’t get legal aid – subject perhaps to a hardship test.  Simple, already audited, objectively verifiable: where’s the problem?  Why bring in a whole new bureaucracy and a whole new test just to put people who can’t actually afford legal costs into the system?  It doesn’t make sense when you’ve got that perfectly clear cut-off already established in law.  So we think there are much simpler ways of going about it – potentially that might be a valid way of approaching civil aid eligibility as well, it’s certainly something that could be looked at I would have thought.  But having that separate, simpler approach to it is going to help with so many of the issues.  It’s going to help with the bureaucracy, it’s going to help with the auditing by the NAO, it’s going to help with actual genuine levels of eligibility to ensure that those who can’t afford the costs actually have their costs met. So we think that there’s a lot there that could be done by one fairly simple measure.

A national legal service?

Coming back to the issue of the national legal service, this isn’t something that the Law Society has analysed in detail.   I think the first thing that we would look at is the experience of the Public Defender Service and for various reasons that proved to be significantly more expensive than private practice, and that was before all the recent fee cuts as well, so I don’t know what a comparison there would look like but I don’t imagine it would be any more favourable to the employed service.

One of the things I’ve always been interested in is the fact that in some states in Australia they do have a public defender service there, but it’s the advocates rather than the litigators who are the public defenders, and that’s something that I’ve always thought was worth at least exploring.   Julie Bishop[1] may have some knowledge on that which she’d be able to share and identify whether that was an area that was ripe for looking at.

On the civil side, it does seem to me that the Dutch approach of the legal aid counters[2] does have a lot of merit to it, the idea of having this basic level of advice and assistance that’s available free at the point of delivery to everyone, I think does help to ensure public support for the system.

In answer to the question how much it costs, we would always feel that you need to look at the balance overall in terms of if you are actually employing people is that going to be more expensive than having the individual contracts to deal the services through private businesses.    I have no idea which way the balance would prove to go in terms of civil and social welfare law, and if the balance shows that actually yes it can be delivered more efficiently that way then – I can’t say the Law Society would support it, but that’s something we would look at very carefully and would take a policy position on.  But it does seem to me that if you look back in time to the old not-for-profit contracts, they were on the basis that the agencies were paid to have a person in post – they had to report what cases they did on that, but that was a very different model from this paying individually for each of a million pieces of advice, and it seemed to work well for the not-for-profit agencies.

And so, I do think it is well worth exploring any other options to paying individually for a million pieces of advice because it seems to me if you were starting from a blank sheet of paper there is no way you’d invent that as the system.   So if there is a better alternative we’re very keen to explore that and consider the pros and cons.

In answer to a question about problems over eligibility for legal aid and the need for a principled stance

Moving on now to what would be a principled stance on eligibility. I think it comes back to my very first point, which is that it is recognised that professional services are expensive, they’re beyond the reach of the average family.  The original principle of legal aid is that nobody should be unable to enforce their rights just because they haven’t got the money to get the representation and advice that they need, and therefore you need to pitch eligibility based on how you ensure that principle is achieved.   Going back to the early 1980s, 80% of households qualified for at least some support from legal aid because it was recognised that that was the sort of level that you need to provide support if you’re going to meet that principled aim.   So, our view is that eligibility does need to be a lot higher than it is if legal aid is going to deliver on the promise of what it’s supposed to achieve.

I think it’s interesting that in Scotland they have set a much higher eligibility limit, and it hasn’t cost them significantly more.  That’s partly because they do ask for contributions in different circumstances, and for slightly higher contributions, but it’s also for a very large extent because actually having higher levels of eligibility doesn’t proportionately increase the demands on legal aid, because it is primarily lower paid people who are likely to run into the sort of problems that result in them having to get advice.   And so there is not that proportionate relationship between increase in eligibility and increase in the budget and Scotland’s been able to do it without a significant impact, so it is worth looking at how Scotland have done it and what the impact was, so we can see whether in fact the fears of what would happen in you increase eligibility limits are in fact justified.

In answer to a question whether it is worth the effort of trying to work out the knock-on costs arising from the withdrawal of legal aid

The next question related to this issue of costing it out.  So you talked about various things we can and cannot work out, how much the overall cost of withdrawing legal aid is with the knock-on expenses being taken into account.   But after ten years of having those discussions, and some very good research from the advisory service about knock-on costs, it never really seems to make a difference, and I just wondered whether it’s worth the effort of really doing that work because if it’s a principled issue then it may be better to focus on principles.

In answer to a question about the Government’s insistence that we had the most expensive legal aid system in the world

On the question of the most expensive legal aid system in the world, I have recently done a briefing paper that we’ve been using internally within the Law Society, reviewing various reports, various pieces of evidence there are.   So within Europe there is research by CEPEJ (The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice) [3] – which is an organisation covering the Council of Europe countries, and that covers all the other countries in Europe and gives some very good, clear figures that – taking account of all the system costs we are absolutely average across Europe.

There’s also the starting point in this issue, which was research by Bowles and Perry[4], which I think was while Lord Bach was at the MoJ.   It was about 2008/9, and that looked at some common law countries as well as the European comparison.  The one figure from that which stood out for me is the comparison with France that showed we spend about one and a half times as much as France overall, but we prosecute two and a half times as many people, so on a per-case basis we are very much more efficient.

And there is another organisation – and I can’t off-hand remember its name – but it has done a worldwide review of justice systems and it looks separately at civil and criminal, it looks at the levels of corruption, the levels of efficiency of systems; there’s a whole range of aspects that they looked at.  In fact, for pretty much every single country in the world, and there was some very interesting data that we were able to extract from that, and that did to a certain degree help with the other common law countries, so I will make sure we dig out that document and flag it up to you [5], but that’s one they’ve done very recently, they try and update it every couple of years so there’s some fairly up to date data there. They’ve published toward the end of last year their most recent report which is based on data up to 2014 so there’s some very useful stuff there.

The cost of restoring legal aid for welfare benefits law

On the issue of restoring welfare benefits, we’ve done our own internal paper looking at what would be the costs to the LAA of restoring that advice [6].  What we don’t have is any evidence that shows what the increase is in cost of possession proceedings or anything like that.  The problem is there have been so many different factors impacting, so for example we’ve looked at the number of cases going to court that are possession proceedings, there are a substantial increase.   But, we couldn’t say how much of that is down to the bedroom tax as opposed to the changes to legal aid and people not getting early advice – or to any other factors that might be going on in the broader economy.

And if it was targeted on just the housing benefit side that would be an even smaller amount – much as I would like to see it restored for everything else as well, given the impact on ordinary people of the various benefits tests that are being conducted at the moment.

So, yes, I think that’s one of those things where there are just so many moving parts to this it would be really difficult to get robust evidence that showed precisely what was caused by this particular issue, but it’s certainly worth at least reviewing the evidence that’s available.

In answer to a question as to where the Law Society thinks we should go on criminal legal aid

Okay, on the situation with crime we did put together proposals back in summer 2014 as to what an alternative approach might look like.  The lesson we would like the MoJ to learn – if in fact all the rumours are right and they are going to give up on this current scheme – is that three times since 2005 they have tried to introduce a competitive procurement process for criminal legal aid, and it looks like this market just isn’t suited to that sort of treatment and that what you need is an approach which ensures that firms that are of sufficient quality can deliver the services.     And if there is a feeling that there are too many firms in the market then the way to deal with that is to ratchet up the quality standards, rather than to decide arbitrarily who can and can’t operate in the market.

The area I think that is very ripe for further discussion and potential change is the manner in which duty solicitor slots are allocated, because at the moment (with the situation being that you get more slots if you have more duty solicitors there) it gives an incentive in firms in more competitive markets to take on more duty solicitors than they need, and that doesn’t seem to me to be in anybody’s interest.  It’s certainly not a rational commercial way of dealing with the situation.   So I think there are issues that need to be looked at there in terms of how the duty slots are allocated.

And perhaps a revised approach to what procurement law does or does not allow, because we’ve had a long running dispute with the legal aid agency on this, we’ve proposed different ways of allocating duty solicitor slots, and the legal aid agency has said that they believe that’s contrary to procurement law.   We’ve had advice from senior counsel saying that it’s not contrary to procurement law and the matter’s just reached an impasse.    So we think that if the Ministry took a rather more enlightened view on what procurement law does or does not permit them to do then we could get to an improved situation in terms of how duty solicitor work is allocated.

The cost created by the greater numbers of Litigants in Person

On the issue of litigants in person (LIPs) there is some data that’s produced by the MoJ on the number of LIPs in court and the impact it has.   One of the problems with the data they produce is that they mix up a LIP who is active in proceedings and trying to fight their way through it, and a LIP who is just a defendant who doesn’t respond to anything, doesn’t participate in any hearings.   And – surprise, surprise – the defendant who doesn’t turn up doesn’t actually take the court any more time.   In fact, those cases go through very quickly, and so the result is the average figures that the MOJ produces say everything’s hunky-dory.   What we need is evidence that focusses on the active LIP’s, to give us a truer picture of what’s going on.

There was I think some initial analysis by the National Audit Office (NAO) that was published in about November 2014, but that was really a very early stages look, and they identified about £3.4 million worth of costs to the court system of LIP.   But that was based on a) very early work, and b) only the absolute direct costs that they were able to measure, so it is an area where I think there does need to be further measurement and the current evidence base is not very good.

Restoring legal aid for immigration and asylum cases?

We don’t have any specific policy on the restoration of legal aid for immigration and asylum cases.

Overall our position is that the cuts in LASPO should be reversed wholesale, but we have identified our priorities and immigration is not one of the priorities that we’d identified.

 

 

[1] Julie Bishop has been Director of the Law Centres Network since 2007.  She was previously the Director of the National Association of Community Legal Centres in Australia for over five years.  She is a member of the Access to Justice Commission.

[2] In the Netherlands a body called the Legal Aid Board (‘Raad voor Rechtsbijstand’) is entrusted with all matters concerning administration, supervision and expenditure as well as with the actual implementation of the Legal Aid System. The Legal Aid Board consists of five regional offices and one central office.  Legal advice and, if necessary, help by a professional Bar-registered lawyer are made available by two parties: the so-called Legal Services Counters act as what is commonly known as the ‘front office’ (primary help), whereas private lawyers and mediators provide legal aid in more complicated or time-consuming matters (secondary help). The legal aid system, therefore, is a mixed model, consisting of public first-line and private second-line help. At present, the Legal Services Counters annually provide easily accessible, free legal services to over half a million clients. The Counters are meant as a first step to receive legal aid and, if necessary, referral to a lawyer or mediator.  (This information is set out in a brochure issued by the Dutch Legal Aid Board).

[3]  CEPEJ, Report on European Judicial Systems 2014 (2012 data): efficiency and quality of justice.

[4]International comparisons of justice systems and publicly funded legal services, Roger Bowles & Amanda Perry, University of York, 2009

[5] This paper is now to be found as Appendix 1 to The Law Society’s Submission, and can be viewed on The Law Society’s website.

[6] Lord Bach: The Government’s claim was that the savings from these changes was pretty small.  £20, £30 million. I mean it’s tiny anyway in the grand scheme of things.  RM: Yes, there or thereabouts.

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