Three Minute Hero?

Three minutes. That’s how long it took to take a Cost Judge through all the salient points regarding an LAA refusal of a £12K Crown Court Litigators Fee claim. A minute of that, or perhaps 30 seconds, was dealing with costs – all of which will now fall to be paid out of the hard pushed Legal Aid fund.

The facts were clear and uncontentious the cases had been “severed” as per A1 of the AGFS and Counsel had been paid 2 fees on that basis.

A1 is replicated word for word at 3.35 of the CCLF scheme guidance yet despite this the LAA preferred 3.36 – stating that as it had once been joined only a single fee is payable. Plain wrong as the hearing length demonstrates.

There seem to me 2 possible reasons for this; that the assessor is utterly incompetent or that the LAA knowingly make erroneous assessments. Neither represents a happy state of affairs.

I think the former unlikely and even if this were the case then the blame attaches to management for deploying undertrained staff. That said we have met senior auditors who thought police station advice and assistance was means tested, so who knows.

Perhaps more likely is a deliberate (thought I doubt written) policy at play. Refuse every claim you can to delay payment in the hope that the firm will either not appeal or, more likely, miss the deadline in which do so. If the latter happens with sufficient regularity this, and the accumulated interest, will presumably more than cover the costs of the other shoe-in appeals. I guess that this sort of thinking might appeal to their new overlords at the MoJ. That this action is undoubtedly a breach of contract is less likely to be considered problematic.

Too cynical?

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