Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – next steps and timetable

Posted by radford on April 5, 2012

The above Bill has now completed its report stage through the House of Lords and proposed amendments made by the House of Lords will now be the subject of ‘ping pong’ between the Lords and the Commons. This process will occur between the 17th and 23rd April and will compete is process with Royal assent at the end of April beginning of May.

The Bill will come into force in April 2013 along with the Portal costs reduction and the Portal expansion to £25,000 for Road Traffic Accidents.

Although 45 days has been spent on this Bill there has been no meaningful debate or discussion around After the Event Insurance.

The main changes are summarised below which also includes a brief summary of other changes being considered by the government

Success fees

  • Recoverability abolished - Not retrospective and chargeable to client.
  • Regulations: there will be a maximum % of specified damages.
  • Expected to be 25% of damages - Not clear whether this includes special damages or just Pain Suffering and Loss of Amenity.

Damages uplift

  • 10% increase in Pain Suffering and Loss of Amenity to compensate for success fee deduction.
  • Not on face of BIll but for the courts to implement. Not clear if the courts have the power/ authority to do so?

After the event insurance

  • Recoverability abolished, except clinical negligence (see below).
  • Not retrospective and no statutory cap on amount own client can be charged if takes out after the event insurance.

Part 36

  • Additional payment to claimant for successful part 36 offer.
  • Interaction between Qualified One Way Cost Shifting and Part 36 offers to be defined.

Clinical negligence

  • Taken out of legal aid scope – but exceptional cases discretion
  • ATE recoverability allowed for experts’ reports cover (but not attendances?)
  • Regulations will cap amount of premium.

Referral Fees

  • Payment or receipt of referral fees banned.
  • Personal Injury - Other business to be defined in regulations in regulations.
  • Regulatory offence and contract unenforceable if referral ban breached.
  • Regulations will cap amount paid: “treat as referral fee”.
  • Illusionary payments (i.e. paying more than the considered market rate) will be treated as a breach.

County Court Jurisdiction

  • Small claims for Personal injury stay the same (but is to go up to £10k initially, later possibly to £15k for everything else but housing).
  • Fast track stays at £25k  and no increase for Personal injury  threshold
  • No change therefore for Personal injury generally.

Portal extension

  • Increase RTA in the portal to £25k limit.
  • No suggestion that the existing fixed fee rates will be changed (though we know that is on the agenda).
  • Extend the portal to EL and PL, but NB issues like contrib. and causation to be considered.

Fixed fees extension

  • System of fixed costs will be extended

            - higher values

            - wider range of Personal Injury.

  • But subject to further discussions about how best to do it.              
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