The LSA has issued the key messages for suppliers for January 2020.
Authority for an expert
Practitioners are reminded that when they are submitting an application that will require an early experts report, a separate authority/profit cost and disbursement request is required on LAMS. We cannot grant requests for authorities that are contained in the substantive first application request without a separate authority request. Authority requests can only be made once a determination has been made on the substantive application.
Responding to Queries
When a query is raised the text of the query is duplicated as a message in your messages tab in order to alert you to the existence of the query. Please do not use the message to reply. You must respond by way of query resubmitted (paragraph 213-219 of the supplier manual). When the LSA raises a query it is in an open state and you can upload any additional documents requested in the query as a supporting document. Some practitioners are choosing to upload an amendment request to address the query. This is not how queries should be responded to however, if you choose to do this you must still resubmit the query so that it can be closed off. Failing to reply by way of a resubmitted query may delay the adjudication process.
Practitioners are reminded that if they are applying for legal aid to defend proceedings then a full copy of the proceedings need to be uploaded along with their clients detailed comments in relation to any allegations therein. A significant number of defence applications are being submitted without proceedings or any indication of the defendants attitude to the allegations which requires the matter to be queried. These omissions delay the adjudication process. All such applications should be marked as emergency applications.
When seeking legal aid for a non-molestation order it is imperative that the application sets out clearly how the parties are associated persons for the purposes of the legislation. We cannot infer from the use of the word “partner” that the parties live or lived together so this must be set out explicitly on the application.
We are working on guidance to the profession in relation to representation lower applications. A very large proportion of these matters are queried which slows down the adjudication process and impacts on the dating of certificates. If a representation lower emergency notification is emailed in, practitioners are asked to ensure that the notification and the submission email are uploaded as supporting documents to the substantive LAMS application. The emergency notification does not constitute a grant of legal aid but instead acts as a placeholder for the date and on receipt of a properly completed application the certificate will be dated with the date of the notification. If however, any adjudication queries are raised on the substantive case, the cover given by the emergency notification is lost. It is therefore imperative that fully completed applications with all appropriate supporting documents are uploaded on to LAMS.
Practitioners are reminded that documents which are uploaded as supporting documents should be given appropriate titles and uploaded only once to cases. Please also insert the date of upload in the field as this allows us to distinguish between the documents supporting the original application and any documents supporting subsequent requests. This allows the adjudicator to view the appropriate documents quickly and speeds up the adjudication process.
This field should only be used for a patient or a minor. We have noticed that practitioners sometimes put the name of the opponent in this field which then causes issues when we are generating certificates as the opponent is named inappropriately on the certificate.
In cases where an authority is granted but an amendment is sought to same, practitioners should upload a further authority request, with the appropriate supporting documentation, and not an amendment request. Authorities cannot be granted unless they are made via an authority request.
Applicants applying to be joined to Article 50 Children (NI) Order 1995 proceedings
Practitioners are reminded that only parties who are named on the original Article 50 proceedings are entitled to seek non means/non merits legal aid. Any other parties, including putative fathers, who are seeking to be joined to the proceedings will need to meet the means/merits tests and an appropriate LAMS application made.
Practitioners are reminded that in parole matters, applications need to specify which category they are seeking e.g. DCS/ECS/ICS/Life Sentence Review and also upload a copy of the Single Commissioner’s decision and confirmation of the oral hearing date.
Application request - incorrect nature and matter
In making applications, a number of solicitors are selecting the incorrect case nature and matter, which is being picked up by the adjudication team when they come to assess the merits of the application. It is imperative that the correct nature/matter is selected from the dropdown list to ensure solicitors and counsel can select and be paid the correct fees. Once the application request is submitted to LSA, staff or suppliers cannot amend the nature and matter.
Therefore, from 1 March 2020, any application requests that have been or will be submitted using the incorrect nature/matter will have a message sent against the request advising the supplier that the application request will be withdrawn and subsequently closed on the basis of incorrect nature/matter. The supplier must submit a new application request. Queries may be raised by the financial eligibility unit at the financial assessment stage on other matters but this will not prohibit an application from being withdrawn at the adjudication stage. Please see the nature and matter selections available for the different levels of service.
If you are in possession of a certificate for legal aid and you are unable to select the appropriate expenses you require to complete your payment request, you should contact LSANI on 028 9040 8888, advising us of this so the correct fees can be paid.
Summary only magistrates’ court cases
Legal Services Agency Northern Ireland (LSANI) has recently identified a number of cases where counsel has been assigned to a summary only magistrates’ court case. There is no legislative basis to assign counsel to a summary only matter. Please see the LSANI guidance note.