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Edward Bennett
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New guidance on expert witnesses from Legal Aid Agency
Date:20 APR 2015
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The Legal Aid Agency have updated their guidance on the remuneration of expert witnesses , following changes in September last year.

The key areas that they’ve clarified are:
  • transcripts of judgments
  • translation work
  • communicating with clients at court
  • experts on foreign law
For transcripts, the guidance makes it clear that in some cases it is right for legal aid to pay (or part-pay), even after the case has concluded. They give examples of an expert witness needing the transcript to inform a report, or when the client needs it for a possible appeal. However, this depends on the circumstance of the case. It must be classed as necessary and be accompanied by a court order, and the costs must be reasonable and proportionate.

In the case of translation, the LAA make it clear that in the pre-proceedings stage, costs must be borne by a local authority. For court papers, only the papers that allow the client to understand ‘the central essence’ of the local authority’s case should be translated, ie only the essentials need to be translated. The cost for translation should be £100/1000 words; any further expense would require an application for prior authority. They also make it clear that legal aid will not cover any costs of communicating with the client via an intermediary at court.

They accept that the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act allows experts on foreign law to be used appropriately, giving the example of expert opinion on the validity of a foreign marriage being needed. However, they are clear that legal aid could not be used to obtain mirror orders overseas. The guidance on expert witnesses also includes details on the use of overseas experts on immigration matters.

They also reiterate the necessity of all expert witnesses needing to comply with practice directions and procedure rules. These remain the same, as detailed here: new standards for expert witnesses.

This news item was originally published on the Carter Brown website and has been reproduced here with permission of the copyright owner.
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