Legal Services Commission(LSC)
This is the main body of legal funding and it was set up by the Access to Justice Act 1999. It is responsible for identifying the needs and priorities of funding and developing the delivery of legal services in accordance of those needs. The commission also manages the seperate fudning systems - Community legal service (CLS) and Criminal Defence Service (CDS).
In the legal world, an unmet need can be three things - lack of knowledge, fear of dealing with lawyers and cost. One of the major factors is cost, and legal funding is essential for access to justice to happen. The earliest organisations was the Citizens Advice Bureaux. But, the latest funding system started in 2009.
Community Legal Service (CLS)
What does it do?
- Gives Legal help for civil matters (Community Legal Advice Centres)
- Help at court
- Legal representation
- Since criminal cases take priority over civil cases, the amount of money left for the CLS is going to be less. Since there is a limited cap, the funding must go to those who need it most so there is two tests involved when applying for legal funding - merits and means test.
Merits test- there must be a realistic chance of the case winning and other factors such as public interest and condudct of the applicant are taken into account
Means test- The disposable income is calculated and then factors such as tax and housing insurence are deducted. If the final calculated figure is below the minimum level then the applicant does not pay anything towards his/her funding. If it is between the minimum and maximum level then the applicant will need to make a monthly contribution. These are split into 3 bands - A = 1/4 mnthly contrebution, B=1/2 mnthly contrebution, C=1/3 mnthly contrebution. Obviously, if over the maximum level then the applicant does not recieve any funding. The disposible capital is also taken account, and the figure must be over £3,000 but under £8,000.
However, even if the applicant passed the two tests, if there is a lack of funding, the applicant may not recieve funding anyway. This a huge problem. In addition, there are some civil matters such as trust and wills which are excluded from legal funding.
Problems? Eligbility levels, lack of funds and non-availability of duty solicitors.
Criminal Defence Service (CDS)
The CDS was set up by the Access to Justice Act 1999.
What does it do?
- Duty solicitor at police station
- Advice and assistance (Duty solicitors)
- Legal representation (Public Defender Service, 2001)
- Again there is limited money and although there is more funding towards the CDS, there is still the 2 tests to pass. These appear to be more stricter as the volume of applicants is more compared to civil cases and to ensure that the funding is going to those who need it most, the minimum levels are lower.
Merits test: is there a point of law? is there interests of justice? is D unalbe to understand proceedings? Does the case involve tracing, interviewing and cross-examining witnesses?
- There are some applicants who automatically pass - those who are under 16 and those who are under 17 but are in full-time ed.
- Other applicants must have their gross income calculated and only those who's gross income is under the minimum level will recieve funding. From 2010, there is now means testing for Crown Court cases.
Advice is given to those who are detained at a police station except those who are on a warrant or are charged with a non-imprisonable offence. This comes under the Access to Justice Act 1999. What are the Lord Carter Reforms?
Conditional Fee Arrangements (CFAs)
How they work- the client and solicitor agree on the normal fee and on a success fee if the case is won. The success fee can be up to 100% of the normal fee. If the case is low, most clients will pay nothing to their own solicitor, hence the term 'no win, no fee'. The 'after-the-event' insurence is usually taken out to protect against the rist of paying the costs if the cas is lost.
Advantages- it provides access to justice for those who cannot receive government funding, client will feel confident in solicitor's commitmeent to case and hopeless cases will not be taken on, saving court time
Disadvantages- clients can't afford the insurence premiums, consumers maybe subjected to high-pressure sales, consumers may not understand the risks of CFAs and some claims end in 'zero-gain'.
Some solicitors become specialised in CFAs. An example case of this is Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd.