Objectives To understand the different types of legal assistance available To understand the problems of legal assistance
Presentations Perform your presentation if you chose to complete one.
Starter What is your opinion? No one should be allowed legal aid
News Reports Look at the news reports provided. Be ready to give your opinion on the matter involved.
Why do people need aid? Lack of knowledge – people do not know where their nearest solicitor is located or who specialises in the law they need People often have a fear of dealing with lawyers – they feel intimidated Cost – Solicitors can charge from about £100 an hour for routine advice to over £300 for work done by a top solicitor.
The Legal Services Commission Section 1 of the Access to Justice Act 1999 set up the Legal Services Commission. They took over the funding of civil cases from the Legal Aid Board. The members were appointed by the Lord Chancellor. When appointing members he should try to make sure that they have a wide range of expertise and experience. Responsible for: Managing the Community Legal Service Fund Developing local, regional and national plans to match legal services to needs. Managing the Criminal Defence Service
The Community Legal Service Established under the Access to Justice Act 1999 Provides the following services for matters involving civil law:
General Information about the law and legal system and the availability of legal services
Help in preventing or settling or otherwise resolving disputes about legal rights and duties
Help in enforcing decisions by which such disputes are resolved
Help in relation to legal proceedings not relating to disputes.
The Community Legal Service Excluded matters:
Allegations of negligently caused injury, death or damage to property, apart from allegations of clinical negligence
The making of wills
Matters of trust law
Defamation or malicious falsehood
Matters of company or partnership law
Other matters arising out of the carrying on of a business.
Funding is available for cases in the County Court, High Court and Appeal Court. However, for amounts of under £5,000 no funding is available.
Different types of help For Civil cases the levels are:
Legal help – covers advice but does not include issuing or conducting court proceedings
Help at Court – allows help and advocacy without formally acting as legal representative
Legal Representation – the covers all aspects of a case including starting or defending court proceedings and any advocacy needed
Support Funding – the allows partial funding of cases which are otherwise being pursued privately
CLS Direct This is a telephone service. In the year ending 31 March 2006, there were over 509,000 telephone calls to the service. 70% of those who were tested would have been eligible for legal aid.
Community Legal Advice Centres Introduced by the Government in March 2006. A one-stop service providing advice on debt, welfare benefits, community care, housing and employment.
Questions Answer the following questions: What are the potential consequences of the 2006 consultation paper “Legal Aid: Sustainable Future”, on the degree of legal aid available in civil cases? In order to gain a contract, and funding, for legal aid, providers must provide a quality service by meeting certain quality marks 2. What are the quality marks, what kind of providers meet them and how? 3. Why is the Community Legal Service website particularly helpful?
Priority for Funding Section 6 of the Access to Justice Act 1999 states that priorities shall be set in accordance with any directions given by the Lord Chancellor. In Feb 2000 the Lord Chancellor directed them to give priority to child protection cases and cases where a person is at risk of life or liberty. After that the Commission should give high priority to:
Other cases concerning the welfare of children
Domestic violence cases
Cases alleging serious wrong-doing or breaches of human rights by public bodies, and
“Social Welfare” cases, including housing proceedings, and advice about employment right, social security entitlements and debt.
Funding Criteria Under s7 of the Access to Justice Act 1999, regulations are issued on financial eligibility. This is known as means testing which takes 2 matters into consideration. These are the person’s disposable income and their disposable capital. What are the differences between these two?
Disposable Income Start with the gross income and take away:
Tax and national insurance
Childcare costs or maintenance paid for children
An allowance for each dependant
A standard allowance for employment (where the person is employed)
People receiving income support of income based job seeker’s allowance automatically qualify.
Disposable Income There is a minimum amount below which the applicant does not have to pay, for anything above this a monthly contribution has to be paid. Monthly disposable income is graded into bands: Band A ¼ of income in excess of the band Band B 1/3 of income in excess of the band Band C ½ of income in excess of the band
Disposable Capital The assets of the person:
Money in the bank
Stocks and shares
The maximum limit for disposable capital, for Legal Help and Help at Court, is £3,000. For other publically funded services there is a minimum of £3,000 and a max of £8,000. If the assets are below £3,000 then no contribution is required.
Disposable Capital Where a person owns a home the value of that home is taken into account. This is done by deducting the amount of mortgage, but only up to £100,000, from the current value of the property. If the amount left after this exceeds £100,000 then all the excess is counted as disposable capital. Example: House current market value £220,000 Mortgage £140,000 – can only deduct £100,000 £100,000 Leaves £120,000 Deduct allowance of £100,000 from the value = £20,000
Criteria for funding What do you think will be considered when deciding to fund a case or not?
Criteria for funding Factors Considered:
the likely cost of funding and the benefit which may be obtained
the availability of sums in the Community Legal Fund
the importance of the matters for the individual
the availability of other services
the prospect of success
the conduct of the individual
the public interest and
such other factors as the Lord Chancellor requires
Merits of the case Is the case likely to be successful? The funding code specifically states that full representation will be refused unless: Where the prospects of success are very good (80% or more) the likely damages will exceed costs; or Where the prospects of success are good (60% - 80%) the likely damages will exceed costs by a ratio of 2 to 1; or Where the prospects of success are moderate (50% - 60%) the likely damages will exceed costs by a ratio of 4 to 1.
Activity Create a poster showing people how they can get help for civil cases. Consider: Making it look interesting Information they will need to have If there are any eligibility issues
Questions What are “advice deserts”? How is “means testing” affecting access to justice for those of moderate incomes?