There has been a 43% increase in applications to LASPO’s safety net regime compared to last year and the Legal Aid Agency granted almost six out of 10. There were 441 applications for exceptional case funding received between October and December 2016, comprising 383 and 58 re-submissions. This compares to 308 in the same period for 2015.
Of that total, 413 had been determined by the LAA by the end of February 2016 and 240 were granted and 164 either refused or rejected.
At the end of last year Amnesty International found that the exceptional case scheme was ‘failing’. ‘The evidence strongly suggests that significant numbers have slipped or are slipping through,’ it said. The report quoted Michael Tarnoky, director of the Lambeth Law Centre. ‘The whole system just creates an additional barrier which vulnerable people with difficult complex cases have to get through,’ he said. ‘It’s simply inadequate.’
According to the latest quarterly stats, 70 of the applications (16%) were made directly by the client, more than double the number last year. The Ministry of Justice reckoned that this could be a result of the application being simplified in response to recent litigation. The most requested areas were immigration (57%), inquest (16%), and family (13%).
The latest stats also illustrate the continuing decline of the civil scheme. The MoJ noted that as a result of the LASPO cuts, legal help was around a third of the pre-LASPO levels, and in the last quarter new matter starts were down a further 14% compared to 2015.
Following the 2013 cuts, the volume of legally aided immigration cases has halved. Most of what remains in the scheme comprises asylum-related work. According to the MoJ: ‘Having fallen by 40% over the five years to 2013-14, new matter starts in the asylum category stood 24% lower in the October to December 2016 quarter than in the same quarter of the previous year’.
Similarly the volume of housing work halved post-LASPO. It ‘fluctuated’ for around 18 months ‘but since 2014 it has been falling’ and in the last quarter there has been a 12% decrease compared to the previous year, the report says.
AT A GLANCE
Civil legal aid
- legal help new matter starts were 14% lower than 2015;
- the number of civil representation certificates granted increased by 5%;
- There were 441 applications for exceptional case funding received and 58% were granted.
- Crime lower (i.e., police station and magistrates’ court) workload continued to decline gradually, with the latest quarter down 6%;
- Expenditure on crime lower has however increased by 1% over this period which ‘reflects the impact of the suspension from April 2016 of the most recent cut to criminal legal aid fees’;
- In crime higher (crown court and above) new orders for legal representation continued to decline in line with the reduction in cases received in the Crown Court overall:
- The volume of cases completed within crime higher also fell, down 4% while expenditure associated fell by 2%.
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