Key messages for legal aid suppliers - October 2020

Date published: 06 November 2020

The LSA has issued the key messages for legal aid suppliers for October 2020.

Graphic for legal services agency northern ireland key messages

Case closure in the Legal Aid Management System (LAMS)

Case closure commenced on 8 August 2020 and has been running daily thereafter for all eligible cases. Practitioners are reminded, as per LSA Circular 11/2020, that the next significant change to the auto closure of cases in LAMS took place on 3 November 2020.

Upon closure of a case a system generated email notification will be sent to all suppliers attached to the case and they will no longer be able to submit any further requests through LAMS. If necessary, however, they can still submit a message against the case or a request on LAMS asking that the case is re-opened. Under such circumstances, the reasons for re-opening the case will be required and should be detailed in the message request. The re-opening of the case will be considered in line with LSA’s published late claims policy.

Late appeals

Practitioners are reminded that The Civil Legal Services (Appeal) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 paragraph 8(1), states that an appeal must be lodged within one month of the date of the refusal decision. Paragraph 9(2) of the regulations, states that no appeal request can be brought more than 3 months after the expiration of the last day for appealing under Regulation 8.

Responding to messages

If you have a query relating to an application request, authority request, amendment request, payment request or an appeal request this should be raised against the particular request using the messaging function in LAMS in the first instance.

LSANI staff will endeavour to respond to all LAMS messages within five working days. Previously we had aimed to respond within two working days however due to the high volume of messages being received in LAMS this is not achievable in all instances. In the event you do not receive a response within five working days please email and provide the case reference and a summary of your message and the date it was submitted. This will then be escalated within the Agency at senior management level to ensure the message is addressed.

Practitioners are reminded as per paragraph 3 of LSA Circular 15/2020 messages should only be submitted at case level if they relate to one of the subjects available from the dropdown.

Associated party

Practitioners are reminded as per March 2020 Key messages that when submitting applications on LAMS, the 'associated party' field should only be used for a patient or a minor to insert the Next Friend or Guardian Ad Litem’s details. Where appropriate the details of the opponent should be recorded in the ‘opponents’ section of the application request.

If the opponent details are recorded against the ‘associated party’ this will cause issues when generating certificates as the opponent is named inappropriately on the certificate. Removal of these details will cause delay in the adjudication process.

Expert engineers - rate change

Representatives are advised that the Agency has reviewed and revised the General Authority for Consulting Engineers’ Report and Witness Fees in Civil Cases. The hourly rate of £57.75 has been superseded and no longer applies. A new rate of £75 per hour is payable for engineering work to cover both civil and criminal cases effective from 3 November 2020 and will not operate retrospectively. All other rates (i.e. court attendances and travelling time) remain the same and will also be consistently applied across criminal and civil cases. A higher rate up to £100 is available for significantly complex cases. In making an application it is the responsibility of the solicitor to provide a detailed estimate covering the nature of the work necessarily involved and the estimated time to be taken in doing the work. If the higher rate is requested full particulars regarding the complexity of the case should also be provided in the form of an estimate. Estimates may also be submitted with split rates whereby some work is at £75 and other work is estimated at a higher rate up to £100. The onus is on representatives to make a case for the engagement of an expert and a higher rate, as appropriate.

The guidance is currently being updated and the revised guidance will be published in the coming weeks.

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