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This statistical release provides information and data on Legal Aid Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) applications and determinations made under clause 10 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) from 1 April 2013.
This period saw a total of 821 applications in the family category with only 8 of these being granted. A further 574 were refused, 216 were rejected, 4 were withdrawn and 14 were awaiting decision.
Figures reveal that a toal of 204 applications were made since the first set of figures covering 1 April 2013 to 31 December 2013 were released, with no applications for exceptional funding having been successful in that time span.
An ECF application for civil legal services is made where a case falls outside the scope of legal aid but the client or conducting solicitor believes there is evidence to support there being a requirement to provide funding because failure to do so would be a breach of, or having regard to any risk that failure to do so would be such a breach of, their Convention rights (within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998), or any rights of the individual to the provision of legal services that are enforceable EU rights.
An ECF determination can only be granted if:
the above exceptional case criteria are met, and
the relevant criteria set out in the Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) Regulations are met, and
the relevant criteria set out in the Civil Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services) Regulations are met
A typical family application is in private family law proceedings. In particular these concern the right of contact with and residence of the applicant's child or the division of matrimonial assets. These cases generally involve the determination of civil rights and obligations. The overarching question to consider is whether the withholding of legal aid would make the assertion of the claim practically impossible or lead to an obvious unfairness in proceedings.
The report highlights the following key points:
1,519 total ECF applications were received by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA). Of these:
- 1,186 were new applications and
- 333 were requests to review an earlier determination;
Of the total ECF applications, family and immigration were the most requested categories of law. There were 821 applications in the family category and 235 applications in the immigration category;
80 ECF applications were made directly by the client, without solicitors formally submitting applications on their behalf. ECF applications are the only legal aid applications that can be submitted directly by a client. The remaining 1,439 applications were made by Legal Aid providers.
1,468 ECF applications were determined by the LAA with a further 51 awaiting to be assessed as at 31 March 2014