In the Media

Call for overhaul of exceptional funding scheme

PUBLISHED March 14, 2014

Lawyers have called for an overhaul of the system of exceptional funding for cases denied legal aid after Ministry of Justice figures revealed only 35 applications were granted in the nine months following its introduction.

The scheme was intended to be a safety net for claimants whose cases fell outside the scope of civil legal aid following the cuts implemented by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act.

Statistics released by the MoJ today show that from 1 April, the date the scheme was introduced, to 31 December 2013, a total of 1,151 applications for exceptional funding were made to the Legal Aid Agency.

Of those, 1,083 were determined, resulting in funding being granted in 35 cases (3% of cases).

The majority of those, 21, were inquests, which lawyers suggest would usually have received funding in any event.

Family and immigration were the most frequent categories of law for applications.

Of the 617 applications in the family category, eight were granted, while only three of the 187 applications made in immigration cases were granted.

The number of applications received falls well below the 5-7,000 predicted by the ministry during the legal aid bill's passage through parliament.

Steve Hynes, director of justice charity the Legal Action Group told the Gazette the system is not operating as the human rights safety net that it was billed as being and called for its overhaul. 

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