The Ministry of Justice has released statistics
concerning exceptional case funding in legal aid. The period covered is 1 April 2014 to 30 June 2014. During that time there were 125 applications in the family category. Of these 4 were granted, 79 were refused, 16 were rejected, 2 were withdrawn and 24 were awaiting decision.
The figures for the period April 2013 to March 2014 had already
, showing a total of 821 applications in the family category with only 8 of these being granted.
Clause 10 of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) introduced the practice of applying for Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) from 1 April 2013.
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:
- 270 ECF applications were received by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) between 1 April 2014 and 30 June 2014. Of these:
- 209 were new applications and
- 61 were requests to review an earlier determination;
- Of the total ECF applications, family, inquest and immigration were the most requested categories of law;
- 12 ECF applications were made directly by the client, without solicitors formally submitting applications on their behalf. The remaining 258 applications were made by Legal Aid providers.
- Determinations relate to the applications received between 1 April 2014 and 30 June 2014 and include all determinations made on or before 30 June 2014.
- 211 ECF applications were determined by the LAA with a further 59 waiting to be assessed as at 30 June 2014;
- There were 21 ECF applications granted.
Legal Aid Exceptional Case Funding Application and Determination: 1 April 2014 to 30 June 2014 report is available to download here.