legal aid


Fair family hearings – according to the Court of Appeal

31 May 2015 by David Hart QC

P-154a3cb5-e8aa-4516-9a6b-c5204c8a4e34Re K and H  [2015] EWCA Civ 543, Court of Appeal, 22 May 2015 – read judgment 

Philippa Whipple QC and Matthew Donmall of  1 COR appeared for the Lord Chancellor in this case.  They have played no part in the writing of this post.

Lord Dyson for the Court of Appeal has recently reversed the decision of HHJ Bellamy (see my post here) who had ordered legal aid to help an unrepresented father in family proceedings. The conundrum was that the father wanted contact with his children aged 5 and 4, but a 17-year old step-daughter, Y, told her teacher that the father sexually abused her – which the father denied.

That issue had to be decided first – and understandably the father felt unable to cross-examine Y himself. Hence the judge’s order that the Courts Service (HMCTS) should pay for legal representation for the father limited to that cross-examination of Y.

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Grayling’s legacy, naked rambling and the benefits cap: It’s the Round-up!

30 March 2015 by lauraprofumo

Naked RamblerLaura Profumo brings us up to speed with the latest human rights happenings.

In the News

“It seems hard to believe that Grayling will remain Lord Chancellor for long”. Joshua Rozenberg delivered a biting analysis of the minister’s future legacy in the Law Gazette last week. As the General Election looms, “perhaps Cameron has finally begun to realise how much anger and despair there is at the steady erosion in access to justice for which Grayling is held responsible”. If the Conservatives lead the next government, the Lord Chancellor will struggle to secure his place, Rozenberg warns.

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Catch-33: Stringent documentary requirements upheld for legal aid in domestic violence cases- Vanessa Long and Adam Smith

28 January 2015 by Guest Contributor

R (on the application of Rights of Women) v Secretary of State for Justice [2015] EWHC 35 (Admin) – read judgment

legal-aidNeil Sheldon and Alasdair Henderson (instructed by The Treasury Solicitor) acted for the Defendant in this case. They have nothing to do with the writing of this post.

The campaign group Rights of Women has been unsuccessful in its judicial review of Regulation 33 of the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 (as amended) which sets out the list of documents which will be accepted as evidence that a legal aid applicant has suffered or is at risk of suffering domestic violence. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) purports to retain legal aid for victims of domestic violence. However, such funding is only available where at least one of the documents listed in Regulation 33 is submitted to the Legal Aid Agency.
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Acquitted defendants costs regime not incompatible with ECHR

28 January 2015 by David Hart QC

448bbd010e93bd0d21e13a354a3cd82bR (o.t.a Henderson) v. Secretary of State for Justice, Divisional Court, 27 January 2015 – judgment  here

The Court (Burnett LJ giving the sole judgment) has ruled on whether the statutory changes made to the ability of acquitted defendants in the Crown Court to recover their costs from central funds are compatible with the ECHR. 

Its answer – an emphatic yes, the new rules are compatible. This conclusion was reached in respect of the two statutory regimes applicable since October 2012, as we shall see.

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How to make family hearings fair

5 January 2015 by David Hart QC

P-154a3cb5-e8aa-4516-9a6b-c5204c8a4e34Re K and H (Children: unrepresented father: cross-examination of child) [2015] EWFC 1, HHJ Bellamy – read judgment 

Philippa Whipple QC of  1 COR appeared for the Lord Chancellor in this case.  She has played no part in the writing of this post.

This case raises a very stark problem. A father wants to see his children aged 5 and 4. The mother has an elder daughter, Y, aged 17. Y told her teacher that the father sexually abused her. The truth or otherwise of this allegation is relevant to whether there should be contact between father and his children. 

The father is a litigant in person, and unsurprisingly (whatever the status of her allegations) Y does not to be cross-examined by the father, nor, equally understandably, does the father wish to do so himself.

So who should? And does the court have the power to order Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to pay for legal representation for the father limited to that cross-examination of Y? So the Lord Chancellor was allowed to intervene – he had been invited to do so in a previous case (Q v. Q – hereand our post here, to which we will come), but had been unwilling to do so – not perhaps tactful to the judges but then he still seems to be learning the ropes in that respect – see here.

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Exceptional legal aid funding should not be limited to extreme cases – Court of Appeal

17 December 2014 by Rosalind English

legal-aidR (on the application of) Gudanaviciene and others v The Director of Legal Aid Casework and others [2014] EWCA Civ 1622 – read judgment

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance on exceptional funding in civil legal aid is incompatible with the right of access to justice under Article 6 of the ECHR and Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Court has further decided that this Guidance was not compatible with Article 8 of the ECHR in immigration cases; in other words, that legal aid should not be refused when applicants for entry to the UK seek to argue that refusal of entry would interfere with their right to respect for private and family life.

This was an appeal against a ruling by Collins J in the court below that the appellant Director’s refusal to grant the respondents exceptional case funding under Section 10 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 in their immigration cases was unlawful.
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State should pay for representation and witnesses in private child disputes

31 August 2014 by Rosalind English

Money purse - WalletQ v Q ; Re B (a child) ; Re C (a child) [2014] EWFC 31 – 6 August 2014 –  read judgment

Public funding is not generally available for litigants in private-law children cases, and no expert can now be instructed in such a case unless the court is satisfied, in accordance with section 13(6) of the Children and Families Act 2014, that the expert is “necessary” to assist the court to resolve the proceedings “justly”.   As the President of the Family Division observed, restrictions on legal aid in certain circumstances has led to a “drastic” reduction in the number of legally represented litigants:

The number of cases where both parties are represented has fallen very significantly, the number of cases where one party is represented has also fallen significantly and, correspondingly, the number of cases where neither party is represented has risen very significantly.

All this has led to increased calls on the Bar Pro Bono Unit, which is generally not able to meet the demand.

Sir James Munby P has therefore suggested that the cost of certain activities, such as bringing an expert to court and providing advice to parents accused of sexual offending within the family, should be borne by the Courts and Tribunals Service.  
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Mousa – a costly costs quirk

3 October 2013 by David Hart QC

money_1945490cMousa and others, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Defence [2013] EWHC 2941 (Admin) – read judgment

A postscript to Rosalind English’s post of today. In the substantive judgment (see Adam Wagner’s post on the order), the Divisional Court decided two main issues, one relating to the independence of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, and one relating to the extent to which an inquiry conducted through IHAT complied with Article 2 of the ECHR. The Secretary of State succeeded on the first issue, whereas the claimant succeeded substantially on the second issue relating to the need for a different form of inquiry. Hence there was no overall winner; the Secretary of State won on the first issue and the claimant succeeded substantially on the second issue. But more time was spent on the first issue. 

What then to do about costs? And why is that interesting – promise you, it is important.

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Legal aid and ideology: the new basis for Government reform? – Angela Patrick

4 July 2013 by Guest Contributor

UK human rigths blog lipmanIn a famous advert from the 80s, Maureen Lipman picked up the phone to caution her distraught grandson that he could never be a failure if he had an “ology”.  It was perhaps in memory of that fine advice that the Lord Chancellor appeared before the House of Commons Justice Select Committee on Wednesday morning.   For the first time, the language of ideology was openly placed at the heart of the Government’s approach to the reform of legal aid. 

Most of the legal profession is familiar with the controversy of the Government’s latest raft of suggestions for reform of legal aid, in the Transforming Legal Aid consultation paper.  JUSTICE and many others have raised substantial concerns about the Government’s approach. The changes proposed to the provision of criminal legal aid will drastically limit the ability of people accused of crimes by the State to access quality legal advice that they can trust. This will increase the likelihood of miscarriages of justice and may make the criminal justice system as a whole more expensive, and less fair, as more people attempt to represent themselves.

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‘Good lawyers save money’: Supreme Court President weighs in on Legal Aid

19 June 2013 by Jim Duffy

Neuberger lega aidAccording to the President of the Supreme Court, the judiciary not only has a right but an obligation “to speak out on matters concerning the rule of law.”  In recent months, it is a duty from which Lord Neuberger has not shirked, and last night’s lecture to the Institute of Government was no exception.  Its focus was the importance of legal aid, which Neuberger described through the prism of the UK’s constitutional set-up and the respective roles of the legislature, executive and judiciary within it.

This is not the first time that the UK’s most senior judge has intervened in the debate surrounding the Transforming Legal Aid consultation, which closed on 4 June.  Back in March, he warned that proposals intended to save £350 million a year by 2015 could end up costing the Government more, with greater numbers of litigants appearing in court without legal assistance, and longer hearings.

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145 specially appointed Government barristers demand rethink on Legal Aid plans

6 June 2013 by Adam Wagner

lawyer-barrister-wig-007145 barristers on the Attorney General’s Panel of Counsel have signed a letter seeking that the Government to rethink its plans for reform of Legal Aid. I was one of the signatories. The letter is reproduced on the Legal Aid Changes blog.  

The letter relates specifically to Judicial Review, which is an area in which Panel counsel practise regularly. Here is a taster:

We consider that the proposals in the Consultation Paper will undermine the accountability of public bodies to the detriment of society as a whole and the vulnerable in particular. Those who are reliant on legal aid are most likely to be at the sharp end of the exercise of government power and are least likely to be able to fund judicial review for themselves, or effectively act in person.

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The Legal Aid avocado and human rights

5 June 2013 by Adam Wagner

Michael-Fordham avocadoTwo quick things. 

The first is that yesterday was the final day for responses to the Government’s latest Legal Aid reforms consultation. As I have done in the past, I will be collating some of the key organisational responses. If you want yours included in the roundup, please email me if you haven’t already. Just as a taster, why not dip into the relatively short and sweet Bingham Centre response, which is excellent, as well as the very long but solid-looking Bar Council response.

If you couldn’t make the protest yesterday, why not listen to three speeches by leading barristers Dinah Rose QCMichael Fordham QC (pictured*) and Geoffrey Robertson QC. Fordham’s rabble rousing avocado metaphor (yes, avocado) is particularly worth devoting five minutes to. Well done to Carl Gardner along with his up and coming sound engineer Joshua Rosenberg for recording and publishing.

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LAA must give reasons about funding expert assessments in care proceedings – Eleanor Battie

2 May 2013 by Guest Contributor

justice24-300x199R (on the application of T) v Legal Aid Agency (formerly Legal Services Commission) [2013] EWHC 960 (Admin) Collins J, 26 April 2013 read judgment This successful challenge to a decision by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) arose from an expert assessor in family proceedings – not unnaturally – refusing to begin work unless funding was in place. If the LAA are asked to fund an assessment on behalf of a party with legal aid, then it is common for lawyers to obtain prior authority from the LAA to ensure that the expert will be paid for their work. If not, then the lawyers themselves can be liable for an expert’s costs. In this case, prior authority to pay for the expert assessment had been refused by the LAA thus resulting in further court hearings and delay in the resolution of the case for the children.

The application for judicial review of the LAA came before Collins J. He concluded that:

For the reasons given the decision of the defendant was wrong in law. Reasons have not been given. This might not have led to any relief beyond a declaration if I were persuaded that the only result could be that the decision was confirmed. Not only am I not so persuaded but I find it difficult to see that it would be reasonable, at least without engaging with the judge whether in writing or orally, to fail to comply with what she has decided is necessary.
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No cash from the UK to avoid Indonesian firing squad

8 February 2013 by Rosalind English

Lindsay SandifordSandiford, R(on the application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs [2013] 168 (Admin) – read judgment

In this highly publicised case, the Administrative Court has come up with some firm criteria for the scope of the Convention’s protective reach for UK citizens abroad. The judgment is also something of a body blow for those who are looking to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms for a wider human rights umbrella.

Lindsay Sandiford, the 56 year old claimant, was arrested for drug smuggling in Indonesia and sentenced to death. She issued judicial review proceedings seeking an order requiring the FCO to provide and fund an “adequate lawyer” on the basis that she had not had proper representation in Indonesia. The broad basis of this claim was that the UK government should back up its opposition to the death penalty by putting its money where its mouth is.
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Legal aid: Government backs down on clinical negligence and domestic violence

1 March 2012 by Adam Wagner

The Ministry of Justice has proposed two important amendments to the Legal Aid, Punishment of Offenders and Sentencing Bill.

As has been predicted for a number of months, the proposals will bring a limited number of clinical negligence claims and claims arising as a result of domestic violence back within the scope of legal aid. The clinical negligence exception only relates to claims arising whilst a person was still in their mother’s womb, or 8 weeks after their birth. If the baby is born before 37 weeks gestation, the legal aid clock will begin to tick from the date they would have been 37 weeks gestation. The victim must also be “severely disabled” as a result.

As to domestic violence, the amendments are to provide legal aid for civil claims where:

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