Bar Council Calls on Peers to Reject Civil Legal Aid Regulations

7 May 2014

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has urged Peers to reject the Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations, which severely limit the availability of legal aid for proceedings for Judicial Review.

Judicial Review plays an important role in the constitutional order. The ability of the court to examine the legality of executive decision-making is a cornerstone of democracy and the Rule of Law.

The regulations, which came into effect on 22 April 2014 and are scheduled to be debated in the House of Lords today, means that lawyers who bring applications for Judicial Review: (a) will not be paid from legal aid if the court refuses permission to apply for Judicial Review; and (b) in the large number of cases which are concluded before the court makes a decision on permission, will only be paid from legal aid if after the event the Legal Aid Agency exercises its discretion to pay them.

Nicholas Lavender QC, Chairman of the Bar, said:

"We need a justice system which protects and promotes the rule of law, is cost-effective and provides access to justice for all.

"These regulations bring in a system under which lawyers will not know until after the event whether they will be paid for work done on Judicial Review cases, and where in many cases it will be a matter of the Legal Aid Agency's discretion whether they are paid or not.

"This will act as a considerable disincentive for experienced lawyers to continuing to doing such cases. Making their remuneration speculative in this way is likely to undermine the viability of this area of work for many lawyers, and therefore to limit the ability of individuals to challenge the legality of government decisions.

"The fact that, on the Government's own figures, these changes might remove legal aid from up to 69% of cases is very disturbing.  Moreover, a large number of those cases which do not proceed to the permission stage are cases in which the claimant obtains all or part of what he was seeking from the defendant before that stage is reached.  These are cases where the claim has succeeded, yet legal aid in such cases would depend on the Legal Aid Agency's discretion after the event.

"We have written to Peers to voice our concerns about the effects on access to justice of these regulations, which limit legal aid in Judicial Review proceedings and will make it easier for public authorities to escape challenge."

                                                                    ENDS

 Notes to Editors

1. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.

2. The  Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes: 

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad. 

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.