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Legal aid update: CCMS update | Criminal fees | Contract extension notices

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21 December 2015

CCMS: mandatory use dates announced

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has announced that use of the client and cost management system (CCMS) will only be mandatory for Special Children Act (SCA) cases from 1 February 2016. For all other civil licensed work, the mandatory use date is being extended to 1 April 2016.

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said:

'We have been urging the Legal Aid Agency not to make the client and costs management system mandatory until it has been fully tested and the issues of slowness and poor functionality, identified during the pilot, fully addressed. We therefore welcome the fact that the LAA has listened to our concerns and has allowed a further two months for solicitors to get used to the system and to gauge and evaluate how the changes will affect more complex cases.'
More details

Government postpones restructuring of criminal fees until 1 April

The Ministry of Justice has laid regulations postponing the restructuring of criminal legal aid fees until 1 April 2016.

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said:

'We welcome that the changes to criminal fees are being deferred from 11 January to 1 April 2016. The deferral will mean that firms in some areas, in particular the south east, will not suffer yet another massive reduction in fees. We are continuing to call for an independent review of the duty solicitor contract procurement process to bring to an end the chronic uncertainty faced by all criminal legal aid practitioners which is totally unacceptable.

'In light of the ongoing litigation, we remain unconvinced, in spite of assurances by the LAA, that the new duty solicitor contracts will commence in April 2016, and that is why action is needed to resolve the legitimate concerns of criminal legal aid practitioners as a matter of the utmost urgency.'

View the statutory instrument

New practice note: statutory defences available to asylum seekers charged with document offences

Our practice note contains important advice for criminal practitioners who advise clients at the police station on the statutory defences available to asylum seekers who may be charged with offences relating to:

  • the possession or control of false documents, or
  • the failure to have an immigration document at a leave or asylum interview

Read the practice note

Judicial review of the criminal legal aid procurement process

At a directions hearing last Wednesday, the divisional court ruled that it will hear the judicial review of the criminal legal aid procurement process brought by the Fair Crimes Contract Alliance. The divisional court does not have jurisdiction to hear the individual procurement law challenges. There will be a further directions hearing today, Monday 21 December, to consider how the two strands of the litigation should be progressed.
More commentary in the Gazette

LAA to mandate crime e-form from 1 May 2016

The LAA has announced its intention to mandate the CRM14 eForm from 1 May 2016. Any feedback should be submitted by 8 January 2016.
Find out more and send your feedback

Better case management (BCM) to be rolled out nationwide

Better case management (BCM) is to be introduced across England and Wales at all Crown court sites from January 2016 and will apply to cases where the date of sending is on or after 5 January 2016.
Find out more

Legal aid and beyond: practical justice post LASPO - 5.5 CPD hours

In these difficult times for practitioners, the 2016 conference provides practical advice on business survival and how to establish a business approach to legal aid work. It will also consider innovation, new revenue streams, alternative funding and the role of technology in access to justice. The conference features a dynamic speed-consultancy session where you will be able to speak directly to experts on issues that concern you.
Book now - 17 March 2016

Contract extension notices

Civil face-to-face contracts

As outlined in the Headline Intentions document published in November 2015, the LAA plans to align all civil face-to-face contracts from 1 April 2018.
Read the document (PDF)

2013 standard civil contracts

In order to undertake this alignment, all 2013 standard civil contracts will be extended through to 31 March 2018. All face-to-face family, immigration and asylum, and housing and debt contracted providers will therefore be receiving a contract extension notice from the LAA by 18 December 2015.
A copy of the contract extension notice will be available on the website.

Immigration removal centres

An interim process is currently in operation for immigration removal centres as a result of the suspension of the detained fast track and ongoing litigation relating to the Tribunal fast-track procedural rules. Because of the continued uncertainty, the LAA does not yet know when it will be possible to run a procurement process. The LAA is working with the Home Office and the Tribunal to address this matter and will issue information about the procurement timetable as soon as possible.

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