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Legal Aid

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 8 November 2006

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what account is taken of the (a) nationality, (b) country of residence, (c) location of claimed harm and (d) income of overseas applicants compared to the average in country of origin when considering applications for legal aid. (100188)

There is no nationality or residence qualification for receiving civil or criminal legal aid. Legal aid for representation in criminal or civil proceedings is only available for proceedings in England and Wales. It is for the courts to determine whether it is appropriate for proceedings to take place in this jurisdiction, taking into account the location of the events giving rise to the proceedings. Funded advice services are generally restricted to advice on issues of English law.

The income of applicants for legal aid is not compared to the average income in the country of origin, although, in cross-border disputes, the issue of whether the applicant can afford the costs of the proceedings may be taken into account in assessing financial eligibility, in accordance with the EU directive on legal aid (2002/8/EC).

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs who received legal aid funding to act for the plaintiff as (a) counsel and (b) solicitor in Sutradhar v. Natural Environment Research Council. (100189)

The solicitor for Mr. Sutradhar was Martyn Day of Leigh Day and Co. This particular claim formed part of a multi party action for which the solicitors were Leigh Day and Co. and Alexander Harris jointly. The senior partners in charge from each firm were Martyn Day and David Harris respectively. The barristers contracted under the multi party action were Lord Brennan QC, Andrew Spink and Richard Hermer.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) on which grounds plaintiff Sutradhar v. Natural Environment Research Council was eligible for legal aid; (100190)

(2) what criteria were met for legal aid to be granted in the case of Sutradhar v. Natural Environment Research Council.

Applicants for legal aid in civil cases can obtain funding for legal advice and information, investigative help, or legal representation, if they pass the standard tests of financial eligibility and if their case meets the criteria for the grant of funding, as set out in the funding code. These criteria include the prospects of success, and the likely costs of the action when compared with its likely benefits.

The release of detailed information about the granting of funding to Mr. Sutradhar is prohibited by statute. However, this particular case, as a ‘multi-party action’, would have been subject to detailed case management by the Legal Services Commission (LSC).

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much was spent in legal aid funding on the case of Sutradhar v. Natural Environment Research Council; how much was paid to each (a) barrister and (b) the firm of solicitors; and what hourly rate was paid in each case. (100266)

Mr. Sutradhar’s claim is one of three lead cases in a multi-party action, involving 377 other claimants. The Legal Services Commission is unable to provide case costs relating to the multi-party action as the final bills have not yet been paid.

The hourly rates applied to this action, as set out under the Multi Party Action Arrangements 1999 and contracted at ‘risk rates’, were £70 per hour for solicitors and £90 per hour for barristers. Within this barristers can share the fees at differing rates, so leading counsel may receive rates above £90 per hour and junior counsel rates below £90 per hour.