LAB penalty plans could cost taxpayer in long term

PROPOSALS to pay solicitors less when high-cost legal aid cases are unsuccessful could ultimately cost the country more, the Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG) has warned.

In its report When the Price is High, published last Wednesday, the Legal Aid Board proposes to penalise solicitors who are unsuccessful in multiparty actions or other cases where costs rise above £50,000,

LAPG vice-chair Richard Miller said the proposals might dissuade solicitors from taking on important cases which may be able to clarify controversial elements of the law and which could ultimately “benefit the country as a whole”.

He added that a Court of Appeal decision of 2 May on the automatic striking out rule, or Order 17, Rule 11 of the County Court rules, was a “classic example” of this. “It clarified an area of major confusion. As a lot of cases were appealed on this point, it meant a long-term saving in terms of court time and money,” he said. “Many such appeals were legally aided. It is a good example of a case which might not have been brought before the courts if these proposals had been in force.”