A pre-action protocol letter has been sent to the Lord Chancellor questioning the lawfulness of the Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020. These regulations, which will come into force on 8 June 2020, are designed to respond to the roll-out in the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum) of a modified procedure which requires appellants to prepare their case in full – including all evidence and a skeleton argument –at an early stage of the proceedings, with a view to encouraging settlement.
The regulations seek to compensate Legal Aid providers for this preparation by increasing the applicable “fixed fee”. But many organisations – including ILPA, the Law Society, the Bar Council, and a number of barristers’ chambers – are concerned that they do this in a way that ultimately increases the risk of providers being paid for a fraction of their work, and of appellants finding it harder to obtain quality representation.
The pre-action letter, sent on behalf of four individuals with ongoing appeals, draws attention to the Lord Chancellor’s failure to consult before settling the content of the regulations; the apparent lack of reasonable inquiries as to how they would work in practice; their tenuous connection with the purpose of the “fixed-fee” scheme; and their impact on access to justice.