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Use of experts in legally aided cases

Date:18 JAN 2013

The LSC has published guidance on applications for prior authorities for experts in family cases.

The guidance comes as a result of work with representative bodies to assist providers in identifying when to submit an application for prior authority and when it is not necessary to do so.

The LSC's Standard Civil Contract states that there is a contractual right to seek or obtain prior authority only where the rate sought exceeds the codified rates introduced in October 2011, or where the item of costs is unusual in its nature or is unusually large.

The guidance includes:

  • examples of factors that may indicate that exceptional circumstances apply;
  • benchmarks of ‘unusual' hours below which prior authority should not be sought;
  • ranges of hours within which prior authority applications have typically been granted for psychologists and psychiatrists, which represent the most commonly used expert types;
  • details of the expert witness information required on detailed assessment.

The guidance also confirms that prior authority is not necessary in relation to drug and alcohol tests provided that the tests carried out reflect what has been directed in a Court Order.

The ‘typical' hours outlined in the guidance are not caps. They are intended to assist providers in assessing on a case by case basis when it would be appropriate to submit an application for prior authority. Prior authority itself is not a limit on the number of hours that may be undertaken by an expert. Additional expert work hours may be justified on assessment at the end of the case to the relevant assessing authority, which may be either the LSC or the Court.