Legal Aid

Legal Aid Processing – Olympic Contingency Planning Arrangements

PUBLISHED July 19, 2012

Legal Aid Processing - Olympic Contingency Planning Arrangements

The LSC has acknowledged concerns raised regarding keeping the Criminal Justice system running smoothly during the period of the Olympic Games & Paralympics.  HMCTS are planning on listing fast tracked magistrates court trials for Olympic offences cases in as little as 7 days, whilst Crown Court cases may be heard within 8 days (custody cases) or 14 days (bail cases).

The following Guidance note is produced by the LSC in partnership with HMCTS and has been provided to LSC staff, Court staff, Solicitors (via the Law Society, LCCSA and directly from the LSC) and the Judiciary.

Existing Guidance 

Reminder regarding current arrangements: 

  • No evidence is required for remand custody cases in the magistrates court (Self employed / Employed / Unemployed) 
  • No evidence is required for pass-ported benefits / Youths 
  • Crown Court applications enable representation orders to be granted upon receipt of fully completed forms with evidence to follow within 14 days 

Supplementary guidance summary:

  • Applications identified as  Olympic fast track cases will be prioritised at the Courts and National Courts Teams at the LSC
  • Relaxed fax only evidence requirements for bailed employed/self employed applications and extending to hardship reviews on failed applications will be adopted. These temporary provisions will apply to all Olympic fast track cases not just those where the defendant is a Foreign National. Evidence may also be scanned and sent through secure e-mail (CJSM) by prior arrangement with the Court. 
  • Relaxed fax only signature requirements for partners who are abroad or at a distance provided it is an Olympic fast track case
  • There is an escalation route for exceptional difficulties in evidence provision to the LSC
  • Expedited fail procedure (no evidence required)
  • 1 page Ready reckoner to flag where evidence may be unnecessary (Annex B)
  • LSC has compiled a list of language experts  where translation of information / evidence is required 
  • Expedited referral procedure where hearing is imminent
  • Process to minimise rejected applications & speed up turnaround 
  • Nottingham NCT will be assisting Liverpool NCT

Further detail on the Processes

Identification/Prioritisation - Applications will need to be marked "Olympic Fast Track? on the front of the form (by the solicitor or their representative) to enable prioritisation at the Court and on any Court referral form to the National Courts Team at the LSC

Evidence provision ? For Olympic Fast Track cases we will accept faxed evidence without sight of the originals to speed up the ability of the solicitor to assist the defendant to comply with these relaxed requirements ? we do not consider it is unreasonable to expect the significant majority to be able to contact their country of origin and obtain such evidence by fax. It has also been agreed that for these types of cases, by prior arrangement with the court, evidence may be scanned and e-mailed. This is agreed on the basis that sufficient identification information must be included to enable the evidence to be tied up with a submitted application and must be sent through Secure E-mail (CJSM)

Partner?s signature provision ? where the defendant is bailed so the partner?s signature is still required, if the matter is an Olympic Fast Track case the partner?s signature may be obtained by fax (the original need not follow) which will expedite the submission of completed applications. This temporary provision applies if the partner is abroad or if the partner is at a distance within the UK. 

Escalation Route ? Where there are particular difficulties with (obtaining evidence for) an Olympic fast track case solicitors will be able to contact the NCT direct to discuss the problem, the available options and agree a way forward to get a funding decision. There will be number of people who have authority to make these decisions.

Document Translation - Any applications where evidence requires translation - evidence should be submitted with the application.  HMCTS will then be able to fax to the NCT who will interpret the evidence using a national network of LSC staff who can advise on different languages or utilise translation websites if no staff member has the relevant expertise. 

Expedited Fails ? where it appears the defendant is not going to be eligible and the application has been submitted without evidence, rather than reject back to the solicitor, we will process those without evidence so that solicitors have a refusal decision more quickly. This will enable solicitors to go on to discuss private arrangements with their clients. We have developed a one page ready reckoner (Annex B) to assist in determining what level employed / self employed income it is worth obtaining faxed evidence for in bailed cases.

Expedited Referrals ? On borderline referrals courts should ring NCT or fax NCT for advice in order to minimise those applications requiring physical transfer. For Olympic Fast Track cases where the hearing is imminent and a decision remains outstanding applications may be faxed by the court to the NCT for a decision or may be pulled out of the work allocation and prioritised to avoid adjournments / delay

Minimising Rejects ? HMCTS and the LSC will wherever possible avoid rejecting a legal aid application for an Olympic Fast Track case, to avoid the associated delay in posting/ re-submission. Depending on the nature of the application and what is missing, this may mean for example a telephone call to a solicitors office to obtain extra information. It is very important that the solicitors responsible give us fully completed forms and also respond to any requests via telephone as quickly as possible.

Communication networks 

  • Crown Courts will have the relevant contact numbers for the magistrate?s courts legal aid teams so that an intervention can be made to get things moving and avoid adjournments
  • Olympic Hot line for HMCTS & Solicitors to National Courts Team ? Please say "Olympic fast track case? and you will be put through to a caseworker with the appropriate expertise. Nottingham 0115 908 4244 Liverpool NCT 0151 242 5203
  • Named contacts in each court and within each NCT to take lead on Olympic cases issues
  • Single point of contact within Legal Aid Business Team (HMCTS) and the National Courts Core Team (LSC) for escalations on cases where discretion might be required
  • Briefing  face to face session with reps from each of the Mags courts affected & NCT to run through arrangements ? jointly run by HMCTS and LSC are currently being held
  • LSC & HMCTS are also considering the appropriate trigger in the unlikely event that we need to invoke alternative Emergency arrangements should widespread disruption occur.