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THE ACCESS to JUSTICE ACT 1999 Civil Cases The state funding of civil cases has now been taken over by the Comm

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Introduction

THE ACCESS to JUSTICE ACT 1999 Civil Cases The state funding of civil cases has now been taken over by the Community Legal Service which is aiming to improve the legal aid system in a number of aspects:- 1) Funding The old legal aid schemes were demand led and so if an applicant met the means and merit test then their case would be funded and this lacked any control over the financial side of the schemes. Now there will be a Community Legal Service Fund containing a fixed amount set each year by the Government. The intention is that this fund will be supervised by the Lord Chancellor who will set the requirements for funding cases by both the professional and voluntary services. The details (criteria and procedures) of how the fund will be spent will be contained in a FUNDING CODE drawn up by the Legal Services Commission and approved by the Lord Chancellor. The Commission is required under the Act to obtain the best value for money - "a combination of price and quality". 2) Coverage The Access to Justice Act 1999 has removed the following cases from the legal aid schemes:- a) Personal Injury cases (except clinical negligence claims) ...read more.

Middle

Criminal Cases The state funding of criminal cases is now controlled through the Criminal Defence Service which came into force on the 1st April 2001. This body again is aiming to improve the system in a number of aspects:- 1 Funding The funding of criminal cases will remain demand led. There will be no set budget and all cases meeting the merit tests will be funded. 2) Eligibility Legal aid will no longer be subject to the means test. All cases will automatically be funded if they meet the merit test for funding which will at least for the present remain the same as under the old schemes. In the Crown Court, at the end of the trial the judge will have the power to order the defendant to pay some or all of the costs of their defence if appropriate. 3) Coverage The aim of the Criminal Defence Service is to ensure that individuals in criminal investigations and prosecutions "... have access to such advice, assistance and representation as the interests of justice require". 4) Suppliers & Quality In order to try to ensure the quality of the work given by legal service providers the Criminal Defence Service will also have a quality mark and be running a contracting scheme similar to the Community Legal Service. ...read more.

Conclusion

3 Performance Incentives - encourages solicitors to perform better as they have a financial interest in the case 4 Wider coverage - conditional fee agreements can be used for cases previously outside the legal aid scheme. 5 Public acceptance. 6 Fairness to the opponent - under the old legal aid scheme if the legally aided person lost the case the winner was unable to claim their costs from the Legal Aid fund and this could be very unfair. Disadvantages of the Use of Conditional Fee Agreements 1 Uncertain Cases - there is a fear that solicitors will only take cases with a very high chance of winning. 2 Insurance costs - the cost of the insurance to the costs if you lose a case can be very high and are increasing rapidly. 3 Financial involvement of lawyers - some believe it is not good having lawyers having an interest in the outcome of the case. Some lawyers may encourage clients to enter a Conditional Fee Agreement when in fact they already have insurance cover eg. Under a household policy or may encourage a settlement if they are concerned they may not win the case in court. 4 Insurance pressure - insurance companies may pressurize a client to settle out of court to protect them from having to pay out on legal costs insurance. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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