The LASPO effect…
The latest civil justice figures published by the Ministry of Justice show that the legal aid cuts are continuing to bite, says Carol Storer.
Legal Action Group’s paper, ‘Civil Legal Aid – the Secret Legal Service’, set out very clearly the drop in the number of new cases post the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).
As another set of statistics has just been published, here is an update on how many cases are going through the system and what the notable trends are.
The Legal Aid Statistics in England and Wales now come out quarterly. At the time of writing, the statistics for January to March 2015 had yet to be published. However, the Civil Justice Statistics Quarterly, England and Wales and Appellate Court Statistics are published at a separate time – the latest are for January to March 2015 and were published on 4 June 2015. Meanwhile, the next update of the separate Family Court Statistics Quarterly was also awaited.
The Civil Justice Statistics Quarterly report highlights that both claims and judgments fell between 2009 and 2012 and have since increased. For the last quarter there were just under 400,000 claims. The peak was summer 2006, when that figure was over 550,000.
Civil Justice Statistics Quarterly sets out judicial review (JR) statistics. The number of JRs in January to March 2015 remained unchanged from the same quarter in 2014. Since 2000, the number of non-immigration/asylum JRs has varied between 1,666 and 2,191 a year. There were 1,903 in 2014.
It was surprising that of the 14,000 cases that reached permission or oral renewal stage between 1 October 2012 and 30 March 2015 (24,000 lodged altogether), 27 per cent (3,843) were found to be totally without merit. Less surprising was that 36 per cent of cases were lodged against the MoJ.
The large fall in the number of cases brought against the Home Office in the Administrative Court is because since November 2013 the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) has dealt with most of them.
In 2011–13, an average of 66,700 cases a quarter started in family courts. In October to December 2014, there were 59,000 cases, a fall of 3 per cent on the same quarter in the previous year, a direct result of LASPO.
Source: Legal Aid Statistics in England and Wales 2013–2014
More LASPO effects can be seen in the number of private law disposals where both parties were represented, which fell by 42 per cent in October to December 2014 compared to the same quarter in 2013. That is a big drop.
Applications for occupation orders remained at around 1,250 a quarter for October to December 2014 and the same quarter the previous year. Numbers of applicants for non-molestation orders fell 9 per cent in October to December 2014 from the previous quarter.
The number of mediation assessments fell after LASPO but the number of assessments in October to December 2014 is 20 per cent up on the 2013 comparable quarter, though 16 per cent lower than the previous quarter.
General civil and criminal statistics
The Legal Aid Statistics in England and Wales October to December 2014 state that a quarter of exceptional case funding applications were granted in that period.
It is worth remembering that in crime:
•the number of representation orders granted in the Crown Court, October to December 2014, was down 15 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2013;
•comparing 2014 and 2013 crime lower workloads, there was a 7 per cent fall; and
•expenditure on crime lower fell 14 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2013.
Looking at Legal Aid Statistics in England and Wales 2013–2014, we see new matter starts (cases started under legal help for advice and assistance) peaked at 942,882 in 2009–10. In 2013–14, that number had plummeted to 172,501. In social welfare law, the peak was 471,418 new matter starts in 2009–10, down to 52,703 in 2013–14.
Civil applications for certificates in 2010–11 numbered 187,588, while in 2013–14 that figure had fallen to 113,180.
Crime lower cases in 2001–02 numbered 1,685,094 cases, but this figure had decreased to 1,203,473 in 2013–14.
However, the overall summary figures for acts of assistance and expenditure since 2007–08 (Table 10 of Legal Aid Statistics in England and Wales 2013–2014, p63) deserve to be pinned up in everyone’s offices. Acts of assistance are set out in the box above.
Expenditure in crime fell from £1.15bn in 2007–08 to £909m in 2013–14. The civil total was £795m in 2007–08 and rose to £1.1bn in 2009–10 but by 2013–14 had fallen again to £801m. In crime and civil, many factors have led to the decline in the number of cases. In civil, LASPO is an important part, but the full story? That needs a whole feature article.