Commons Select Committee Holding Enquiry into Consequences of LASPO
4th February 2014
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LAPSO) is one of the most controversial pieces of law to affect personal injury solicitors for years, and has been cited as one of the reasons behind the recent closure of several law firms and the sell-off of personal injury case files.
LAPSO came into force in April 2012 and made a series of changes to the way injury claims proceed. Part 1 of the Act opened the door for reductions to people’s eligibility for legal aid and the amount of legal aid they may receive, Part 2 changed no win no fee claims and conditional fee arrangements and outlawed success fees and other costs, making it more difficult for solicitors to offer honest no win no fee representation, while banning referral fees in the personal injury sector.
The criticism LAPSO endured from the legal services sector was significant, yet the Act still came into force, leaving personal injury solicitors struggling to understand the new regulations they had to work under.
While the ban on referral fees and success fees and other elements of Part 2 of LAPSO look unlikely to change, news that the Commons Select Committee is holding an enquiry into the impact of the civil legal aid cuts under Part 1 of the Act may offer some much-needed relief to the sector.
The government’s amendments through LAPSO were not just to reduce the overall size of the legal aid budget, but also to encourage more people to participate in mediation rather than claim compensation through the courts. The Commons Select Committee intends to discover whether this objective has been reached.
Some of the questions the Committee is interested in include
– What effects has LAPSO had on the public’s access to justice, and have any particular types of litigants or areas of law that have seen pronounced effects from LAPSO?
– Are there any identifiable trends in the number of civil law cases receiving legal aid post-LAPSO and what is behind these trends?
– Has the legal aid budget fallen since LAPSO?
– What impact has LAPSO had on legal advisors, assistants and practitioners, including not-for-profit bodies?
– What effect has LAPSO had on the overall number of civil court cases and on courts’ operations?
– Has LASPO had its intended effects on mediation services?
– How useful and of what quality is the information litigants receive about civil legal aid?
– Are victims of domestic violence able to easily and successfully apply for legal aid?
– Are exceptional cases funding services working properly?
The Law Society is asking people to complete a series of questionnaires to submit to the Commons Select Committee’s inquiry, so it can submit high-quality written evidence about the justice problems LAPSO has caused for law firms. The consultation will close on April 30th.