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Legal Aid

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 30 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will make it his policy to undertake a full impact assessment before implementing reforms relating to (a) family law legal aid and (b) legal aid client criteria arising from the Legal Service Commission’s review of family law legal aid funding; and if he will make a statement. (282438)

An initial Impact Assessment was conducted and published alongside the Family Fees consultation paper “Family Legal Aid funding from 2010”. The LSC is currently modelling the proposed final scheme and accompanying Impact Assessment, which will be published with the final policy proposals on family fees. This follows consideration of the consultation responses and the commissioning of the research by Ernst and Young on the family advocacy market to provide additional data for the Impact Assessment. The LSC has agreed to share the outcome of the research with a number of stakeholders representing legal service providers and will do shortly.

The LSC is committed to conducting Impact Assessments on all its public consultations on policies and adheres to its own Impact Assessment Code of Practice. A copy of the Code can be found on its website.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what estimate he has made of the proportion of the population who will be eligible for legally-aided representation in the Crown Court once means-testing is re-introduced; (282669)

(2) what estimate he has made of the proportion of the population eligible for legally-aided representation in magistrates' courts.

Every defendant appearing before the Crown court for trial once the new means testing scheme is introduced will be granted a representation order, subject to the submission of a completed application form. We estimate that just over three-quarters of defendants will receive legal aid without needing to make any contribution. Further information is available in the “Impact Assessment”, published alongside the Government's response to the consultation on the principle of Crown court means testing.

Defendants in the magistrates court need to pass both the Interests of Justice test and the means test to qualify for legal aid. Recent estimates suggest that around half of the population of England and Wales would be financially eligible to receive legal aid in the magistrates courts if they were charged with an offence that satisfied the Interests of Justice test. The majority of defendants who are not legally-aided in the magistrates courts are ineligible because their cases do not meet the Interests of Justice criteria.