Memorandum submitted by the Northern Ireland
1. The Northern Ireland Court Service ("NICtS")
is a Department of the Lord Chancellor established under the Judicature
(Northern Ireland) Act 1978.
2. The Lord Chancellor is responsible for
legal aid in Northern Ireland. Legal aid is a reserved matter
under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Schedule 3 paragraph 15).
Legal aid was transferred on 1 April 1982 from the Secretary of
State to the Lord Chancellor under the Transfer of Functions (Legal
Aid and Maintenance Orders) (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 [S.I.
1982 No. 159].
3. The Legal Aid, Advice and Assistance
(Northern Ireland) Order 1981 (S.I. 1981/228 (N.I.8)) ("the
1981 Order") is the statutory basis for the provision of
legal aid in Northern Ireland. It is similar to the Legal Aid
Act 1974 which applied in England and Wales prior to the Legal
Aid Act 1988 ("the 1988 Act") and the Access to Justice
4. There are a number of other participants
in the context of legal aid in Northern Ireland. The relationships
are set out in Appendix A.
5. The outturn figures associated with legal
aid are given in the table below:
Actual Nett Spend
||Grant in aid £m
||Criminal £m||Civil £m
||ABWOR £m||Green Form £m
6. The Government announced a review into the provision
and administration of legal aid in Northern Ireland on 19 February
1998. The announcement indicated that officials would:
(a) undertake a review into arrangements for the administration
and provision of legal aid in Northern Ireland, bringing forward
recommendations for change where necessary; and
(b) consider in the Northern Ireland context the proposed
reforms to legal aid in England and Wales.
7. As a result of this review a Consultation Paper entitled
"Public Benefit and the Public Purse" was published
on 14 June 1999. The Consultation Paper included fundamental proposals
to reform the legal aid system in Northern Ireland.
Objectives of the review
8. The Government's objectives, as set out in the Consultation
Paper, are summarised as follows:
(a) ensuring appropriate funding arrangements are in place
to secure access to the most appropriate means to resolve legal
issues for citizens;
(b) targeting resources to those in greatest need;
(c) ensuring that the overall cost of legal aid is affordable
(d) securing value for money from quality legal services;
(e) establishing the most effective and efficient administrative
structure to deliver publicly funded legal services.
9. The key proposals in the Consultation Paper are to:
(a) establish a new Administrative Body, the Northern
Ireland Legal Services Commission, which might ultimately take
responsibility for all public expenditure used to buy legal services,
whether civil matters, family matters or criminal matters;
(b) establish capped budgets for legal aid (other than
in criminal matters). The funds available would be targeted at
the highest priority matters. Cases falling within priority categories
would attract funding based on the significance of the issue to
the individual bringing the case; its prospects of success; the
availability of alternative financing; and the public interest;
(c) secure the services of quality providers at best value
for money prices through a system of exclusive contracting or
standard fees supported by a quality standards mechanism; and
(d) ensure the most appropriate and cost effective solutions
are available to the public.
Responses to Consultation Paper
10. The consultation period on the Paper ended on 29
October 1999. Ministers have considered the responses and are
finalising decisions on the reforms. Primary legislation (a Northern
Ireland Legal Aid Order in Council made under the Northern Ireland
Act 1998) will be required to bring forward the substantive reforms.
11. In Northern Ireland statutory responsibility for
administering civil legal aid is vested in the Law Society of
Northern Ireland and the function is exercised through its Legal
Aid Committee and Legal Aid Department. In addition the Law Society
administers the criminal legal aid scheme on behalf of the NICtS
(apart from appeals in criminal matters to the Court of Appeal
and House of Lords where legal aid payments are made by the NICtS
on foot of taxation). This is different to the position in England
and Wales where statutory responsibility for civil legal aid transferred
from the Law Society to a Legal Aid Board by virtue of the 1988
Act. Criminal legal aid in England and Wales is administered by
a mixture of court officials (Crown Court proceedings) and staff
in the Legal Aid Board (Magistrates' Court proceedings).
12. In December 1997 the arrangements for administering
legal aid in Northern Ireland were placed on a more regulated
footing, through the introduction of Management Statements and
Financial Memorandums (in relation to both civil and criminal
legal aid) agreed between the Law Society and the NICtS. This
initiative had been taken to:
(a) introduce arrangements to require the Legal Aid Department
to operate more in line as a Non-Departmental Public Body (although
in fact a Department of the Law Society in Northern Ireland);
(b) improve the arrangements for transparency and accountability
of the legal aid structures in Northern Ireland; and
(c) improve the management of the Legal Aid Department
in a manner which was consistent with the principles of the relationship
which exists between the Lord Chancellor and the Legal Aid Board
in England and Wales.
13. The eligibility requirements for civil legal aid
as provided through three structures, that is, advice and assistance
(the Green Form Scheme), Assistance By Way Of Representation (ABWOR)
and civil legal aid (which includes full representation in the
courts) are set out in this section.
14. The scope of civil legal aid and the eligibility
criteria for applicants are broadly analogous to England and Wales.
The main differences of a significant nature are that:
(a) in Northern Ireland a contributory Green Form Scheme
is still in operation but in England and Wales the requirement
to make contributions (assessed against various bands of income)
was abolished in 1993; this means that in Northern Ireland the
upper financial eligibility limit is higher than in England and
Wales and a table of contributions is maintained;
(b) in Northern Ireland there are no franchising or contracting
(c) in Northern Ireland the merits test remains "reasonable
grounds for taking, defending or being a party to proceedings".
There is no power in the legislation to operate a flexible system
of applying different criteria or tests to different types of
proceedings which is now the position in England and Wales under
the Access to Justice Act 1999;
(d) in Northern Ireland allegations of negligently caused
injury, death or damage to property (apart from allegations relating
to clinical negligence) can still attract legal aid whereas they
are now out of scope in England and Wales;
(e) there is no system of formal no win no fee agreements
in Northern Ireland, no system of success uplifts or tradition
of using insurance products to support litigation in Northern
(f) in Northern Ireland the following categories of cases
are not specifically excluded from legal aid and could therefore
be covered subject to the usual means and merits test by the Green
Form Scheme or civil legal aid whereas they are now out of scope
in England and Wales:
(iv) matters of trust law;
(v) matters of company law; and
(vi) other matters arising out of the carrying on
of a business.
The Green Form Scheme
15. In respect of the Green Form Scheme authority to
grant Green Form advice and assistance is vested in the first
instance in the solicitor to whom an application for advice and
assistance is made. It is intended to cover preliminary advice
and assistance from a solicitor including advice, letter writing,
entering into negotiations, obtaining an opinion and can include
help with the preparation of a case before eg a tribunal. Advice
and assistance stops short of representation in court. There is
no merits test except that the question involved must cover any
point of Northern Ireland law. There is a means test which is
set out in the 1981 Order and the Regulations made thereunder.
16. The solicitor is responsible for determining the
means of the individual applying for advice and assistance. The
solicitor is responsible to assess:
(a) the disposable income of the applicant;
(b) the disposable capital of the applicant; and
(c) the contribution (if any) which the applicant should
17. Where the applicant is in receipt of income support,
income based jobseeker's allowance, disabled person's tax credit,
or working families tax credit, the individual is entitled to
receive free advice and assistance.
18. Where the applicant is required to make a contribution
towards the advice and assistance, the solicitor will inform the
applicant of the amount of the contribution required, and be responsible
to collect it and pass it to the Legal Aid Department.
Advice and assistance where a person is detained at a Police
Station or Holding Centre
19. A person detained for questioning at a police station
or holding centre is entitled to free advice and assistance from
any solicitor under the Green Form Scheme. In such circumstances
there is no merits test and the means test does not apply.
20. Assistance by way of representation is an extension
of the advice and assistance scheme which allows the solicitor
and counsel to institute and conduct proceedings on behalf of
the assisted person. This is usually in inferior courts, eg the
magistrates' court (normally civil matters or matters relating
to children). Responsibility for granting applications for ABWOR
rests with the Legal Aid Department or the court can grant the
application (if there is a degree of urgency).
21. Unlike Green Form advice ABWOR does have a merits
test. To satisfy the requirements of ABWOR (other than in Mental
Health Review Tribunal cases or Board of Visitors or Visiting
Committee proceedings where there is an entitlement without a
merits test) the applicant must show that he has reasonable grounds
for taking, defending or being a party to the proceedings.
22. The Legal Aid Department (or the court or tribunal
in cases of emergency) in considering applications for ABWOR is
responsible for determining the merits of the case.
23. Applications can also be refused if it appears unreasonable
to grant the application or due to the "simple nature"
of the proceedings it would not be required ordinarily to employ
24. Determination as to the grant or refusal of ABWOR
is final. There is no appeal procedure.
25. The means of the individual seeking ABWOR are assessed
by the Legal Aid Department or the court. The means test is similar
to that for the Green Form Scheme with some differences in the
capital ceiling to take account of the representation element.
26. The table below gives a broad indication of the level
of consistency in respect of the number of ABWOR applications
granted each year compared to the number of applications refused.
The table is prepared from information contained in the Legal
Aid Annual Report of the Law Society. There are variants within
the information and it cannot be taken as definitive.
||Refused||Refusal Rate of Total
Civil Legal Aid
27. Schedule 1 to the 1981 Order describes the proceedings
for which civil legal aid may be granted. The Schedule indicates
that legal aid is available for cases in:
(a) the House of Lords in the exercise of its jurisdiction
in relation to any appeal from Northern Ireland;
(b) the High Court and the Court of Appeal;
(d) the Magistrates' Court (for cases about marriage and
the family; and also in certain circumstances for cases concerning
(e) the Lands Tribunal; and
(f) the Enforcement of Judgments Office.
28. The means of an applicant for civil legal aid are
assessed for the Legal Aid Department by the Legal Aid Assessment
Office of the Social Security Agency both in terms of their disposable
income and disposable capital.
29. A distinction is made between applications for claims
in respect of personal injuries and other cases in terms of the
ceiling of disposable income and disposable capital. In respect
of both types of claim the disposable income figures are usually
adjusted on an annual basis.
30. Where the applicant's means are within the income
and capital ceilings a contribution may be required from the applicant.
31. The merits test which is applied to civil legal aid
applications is set out in Article 10(4) of the 1981 Order. This
requires the applicant to show that he has reasonable grounds
for taking, defending or being a party to the proceedings. Apart
from this merits test for certain applications there are mandatory
obligations to provide civil legal aid, for example, under the
Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.
32. If the Legal Aid Department or the Legal Aid Committee,
in considering the application, is uncertain whether there are
"reasonable grounds", it may grant a limited certificate
to enable further information to be obtained eg, an expert's report,
so that an informed decision can be made.
33. In addition to the reasonable grounds test the application
can be refused if it would be unreasonable in all the circumstances
that he should receive legal aid or it would be more appropriate
to receive ABWOR.
34. Where the Legal Aid Department refuse an application
for civil legal aid there is an appeal mechanism to the Legal
Aid Committee sitting as a statutory Appeal Body. The decision
of the Legal Aid Committee is final (but subject to judicial review).
35. The table below gives a broad indication of the level
of consistency in respect of the number of civil certificates
granted each year compared to the number of applications refused.
The table is prepared from information contained in the Legal
Aid Annual Report of the Law Society. There are variants within
the informaton and it cannot be taken as definitive.
36. No information is held by NICtS concerning the number
of applications, grants and refusals of the Green Form Scheme,
ABWOR or civil legal aid made in respect of individual lawyers
or their firms nor of amounts of funds from the legal aid fund
which they receive.
Remuneration of lawyers
37. The basis for determining levels of remuneration
under the civil legal aid structures is as follows:
(a) unlike England and Wales, there are no prescribed
rates of remuneration for ABWOR, instead the hourly rate fixed
by the Taxing Master and the High Court applies or guideline fees
are fixed by the Legal Aid Committee;
(b) in respect of proceedings before a county court in
Northern Ireland remuneration is determined by reference to the
scale costs prescribed in the County Court Rules (Northern Ireland)
1981 [S.R.1981 No 225]. Under the scale a total set amount is
payable in respect of solicitor's costs and in respect of counsel's
fees dependent upon the nature of the action and the amount claimed
or decreed; and
(c) in respect of proceedings heard in the High Court
the amounts allowed to solicitors and counsel are subject to taxation
(with a reduction of 5 per cent in respect of profit costs). There
is no equivalent in Northern Ireland to the Legal Aid in Civil
Proceedings (Remuneration) Regulations 1994 which prescribe certain
rates of payment to be allowed to solicitors in respect of most
civil proceedings in the High Court and county court and including
an hourly rate for preparation.
38. The Director of NICtS must be satisfied that arrangements
are in place to safeguard public funds and that safeguards are
being applied by the Legal Aid Department in order to conform
to the requirements of propriety and good financial management.
He must be satisfied that the conditions attached to the grant
to maintain the legal aid fund and the grant-in-aid (civil and
criminal) conform to the terms of the Vote and that compliance
Qualified Account and Action Plan
39. The Legal Aid Fund Account and the Court Service
Account for 1996-97 were qualified by the Comptroller and Auditor
General on the basis that there was material irregular expenditure
in respect of the Green Form Scheme (legal aid expenditure is
recorded in both Accounts). In 1997-98 both Accounts were qualified
on the basis that there was material irregular expenditure in
respect of the Green Form Scheme and ABWOR. In December 1997 the
Northern Ireland Court Service in co-operation with the Legal
Aid Department agreed a plan of action in order to tighten procedures
surrounding the operation of the Green Form Scheme (including
the assessment of means for ABWOR which is applied for on the
same form as for Green Form). The 1998-99 Accounts were certified
by the Comptroller and Auditor General without qualification.
The following measures have been taken:
(i) legal practitioners were reminded by circular and
advertisement in December 1997 of their responsibility for determining
a client's disposable capital, disposable income and accordingly
financial eligibility for legal advice and assistance;
(ii) the form of consent which applicants must sign was
amended in March 1998 to allow the Legal Aid Department to take
whatever steps were necessary to verify the accuracy of any information
(iii) applicants now must specify on the form which of
the qualifying benefits for free Green Form advice they are receiving;
(iv) in March 1998 agreement was reached with the Social
Security Agency to introduce spot checking of a sample of the
applications against the benefit claimed;
(v) the Notes for Guidance attached to the annual key
card which is an aid for legal practitioners to determine financial
eligibility of applicants for legal advice and assistance were
amended in May 1998 outlining the key responsibilities of practitioners;
(vi) from September 1998 solicitors were required to complete
a certificate on the application form confirming that they are
satisfied that the applicant is in receipt of benefit (the statutory
test) and stating the basis on which that view had been reached;
(vii) posters have been produced and distributed to be
displayed in solicitors' practices which inform the public of
the need for proofs of benefit when making an application; and
(viii) questionnaires have been issued to Assisted Persons
to confirm the advice actually given as against the claim for
payment for advice by solicitors.
40. The Criminal Legal Aid Scheme is essentially the
same in both jurisdictions, except that in Northern Ireland:
(a) legal aid is provided without contributions and completely
free of any charge to defendants who meet the means test, but
in England and Wales it is provided on a contribution basis;
(b) there are no specific financial eligibility limits;
(c) there is no defined meaning in statute of the "interests
of justice" merits test.
Grant of criminal legal aid
41. The power to grant or refuse criminal legal aid is
vested in the court. The decision as to whether or not to grant
or refuse is determined by two teststhe means and merits
42. Under Articles 28 to 30 of the 1981 Order the court
must assess whether an applicant seeking criminal legal aid is
of insufficient means to enable him to fund his own defence. The
court may require the applicant to complete a Statement of Means
Form setting out his means. It is a matter of judicial discretion
to decide in the individual circumstances of the applicant and
the case whether the applicant either has or has not sufficient
means to fund his own defence.
43. Having assessed the means of the applicant and merits
of the case, the court will either grant criminal legal aid or
will refuse the application. Contributions towards the costs of
the defence cannot be required in respect of criminal legal aid.
Where an applicant is claiming to be on state benefit procedures
are being put in place and are almost completed to check the veracity
of that claim with the Social Security Agency.
44. The court is also responsible to determine the merits
test which is whether it is desirable in the interests of justice
that an applicant should have free legal aid in the preparation
and conduct of his defence (Articles 28 to 30 of the 1981 Order).
45. The interests of justice test is not defined in the
1981 Order but the recommendations put forward in the Report of
the Departmental Committee on Legal Aid in Criminal Proceedings
(the "Widgery Committee") in 1966 (Cmnd 2934, para 180)
are generally taken to be the guiding principles. These are:
(a) the likelihood of being deprived of liberty;
(b) the potential loss of livelihood;
(c) the possibility of serious damage to the individual's
(d) whether a substantial question of law is involved
in the case;
(e) whether the applicant has an inadequate knowledge
(f) whether the question would require the tracing and
interviewing of witnesses;
(g) the need for expert cross-examination of prosecution
(h) whether it would be in the interests of someone other
than the accused that the accused be represented.
46. Article 31 of the 1981 Order indicates that if there
is any doubt whether criminal legal aid should or should not be
granted, the doubt is to be resolved in the applicant's favour.
47. Criminal legal aid remuneration in Northern Ireland
is regulated by the Legal Aid in Criminal Proceedings (Costs)
Rules (Northern Ireland) 1992 (S.R.1992 No.314) ("the 1992
Rules"), which prescribe standard fees for cases meeting
certain criteria and rates of remuneration to be applied to various
elements of work undertaken by lawyers in non-standard fee cases.
These Rules were modelled on the equivalent Regulations in England
and Wales (that is, the Legal Aid in Criminal and Care Proceedings
(Costs) Regulations 1989), but modified to take account of Northern
Ireland circumstances, including the different statutory test
(see paragraph 49) and for example, non-jury criminal trials under
48. There are a number of differences in respect of the
method of assessing costs in Northern Ireland as compared to England
and Wales. The following are worth noting:
(a) in Northern Ireland the Appropriate Authority which
determines fees in non-standard cases in accordance with the 1992
Rules is a committee of three persons: a solicitor, a barrister
and a lay person all of whom are appointed by the Lord Chancellor.
Where the Appropriate Authority proposes to allow fees above a
fixed level, the amount so allowed must firstly be certified as
appropriate by the Taxing Master;
(b) in England and Wales the Appropriate Authority is
an officer appointed by the Lord Chancellor (Crown Court proceedings)
or the Legal Aid Board (Magistrates' Court proceedings);
(c) the Northern Ireland scheme operates an extra statutory
system of composite fees for Magistrates' Courts proceedings as
opposed to the prescribed standard fee system operating in England
and Wales; and
(d) there is no provision in Northern Ireland for graduated
fees in respect of advocacy in the Crown Court.
49. The most significant distinction is the duty placed
on the Lord Chancellor when determining rates of remuneration
for criminal legal aid work. In Northern Ireland, the Lord Chancellor
must ensure that rates are fair for work reasonably undertaken
and properly done (Article 37 of the 1981 Order), but in England
and Wales he must have regard to six statutory factors (Section
34(9) of the 1988 Act) before determining the rates. The six factors
(a) the time and skill which the work requires;
(b) the general level of fee income arising from the work;
(c) the general level of expenses of legal representatives
which is attributable to the work;
(d) the number and general level of competence of legal
representatives undertaking the work;
(e) the effect of the regulations on the handling of the
(f) the cost to the public funds of any provision made
by the regulations.
50. In Northern Ireland the fees paid in respect of each
case are assessed by the Appropriate Authority. The Taxing Master
and the courts have supervisory control over the level of fees
to ensure they represent fair and reasonable remuneration.
51. The table below indicates the level of consistency
in all courts throughout Northern Ireland in respect of the number
of applications refused for free legal aid each year compared
to the number of applications granted.
52. No information is held by NICtS concerning the number
of applications, grants and refusals of criminal legal aid made
in respect of individual lawyers or their firms nor of amounts
of funds from criminal legal aid which they receive.
53. In 1997 the NICtS undertook a review of the Legal
Aid in Criminal Proceedings (Costs) Rules (Northern Ireland) 1992
("the 1992 Rules"). The review sought to identify where
the operational efficiency of the arrangements prescribed by the
1992 Rules might be improved within a cost neutral context. Priority
has since been given to bringing forward the major legal aid review
announced to Parliament in February 1998. The major review will
include taking forward some of the recommendations arising from
the review of the 1992 Rules.
54. Circulars issued to Resident Magistrates and Judges
in 1984 and then in March 1998 in respect of control issues surrounding
the granting of criminal legal aid. In particular reference was
drawn to the interests of justice criteria and their powers to
refer cases to the Social Security Agency. In February 1999 a
circular issued in respect of the powers of the judiciary to refer
applications for criminal legal aid to the Social Security Agency
for an investigation.
55. A new and more comprehensive Statement of Means Form
(which is submitted to apply for free criminal legal aid) was
introduced in June 1999.
56. All applicants are asked to provide documentary evidence
of means and the applications of those who claim to be on benefit
but do not produce documentary evidence are referred to the Social
Security Agency to be verified. A Service Level Agreement between
the Social Security Agency and the Northern Ireland Court Service
is in place which specifies the performance levels expected.
57. The Judicial Studies Board for Northern Ireland facilitated
a seminar on 14 April 1999 with the Resident Magistrates to explain
the improvements to procedures. Resident Magistrates and Judges
received a personal copy of the Notes for Guidance which explained
the new procedures in detail.
58. All newly appointed County Court Judges, Resident
Magistrates and Deputy Resident Magistrates now receive a criminal
legal aid "starter pack" which includes the new Statement
of Means form, the latest circulars and a copy of the Notes for
Guidance in relation to the system.
59. The Director of the Northern Ireland Court Service
as Accounting Officer is responsible for ensuring, in relation
to all legal aid expenditure voted by Parliament that payments
made are within the ambit and the amount of the Vote and that
approval from Parliament is sought and obtained.
60. The establishment of Management Statements and Financial
Memorandums, covering both civil and criminal legal aid, in December
1997 set out the agreed aims, objectives and functions of the
Legal Aid Department of the Law Society and specified the inter-relationship
between the Law Society (through its Legal Aid Committee and its
Legal Aid Department) and the Northern Ireland Court Service.
61. The Chief Executive of the Legal Aid Department is
the Accounting Officer for the Legal Aid Department and is accountable
to the Director of the NICtS for the expenditure of the grant
to maintain the legal aid fund and grant-in-aid (civil and criminal).
He is accountable for the regularity of expenditure and for the
effective and efficient administration of the Legal Aid Department.
62. The Chief Executive of the Legal Aid Department has
responsibility for the propriety of the Department's expenditure
and must also ensure that best value for money is obtained. He
must make sure that there is good management of public money and
that the Department operates as efficiently, effectively and economically
63. The Chief Executive of the Legal Aid Department gives
advice to the Legal Aid Committee on all matters of financial
propriety and regularity and on all matters of prudent and economical
administration. Therefore it is his responsibility to ensure that
effective checks and controls are in place and that accounting
records are maintained in accordance with professional codes and
64. Each year the accounts are audited by persons appointed
by the Lord Chancellor and in accordance with a scheme of audit
approved by the Lord Chancellor as required by Article 20 of the
Legal Aid, Advice and Assistance (Northern Ireland) Order 1981.
65. The Northern Ireland Audit Office acts as an agent
of the National Audit Office. The Comptroller and Auditor General
certifies and reports to Parliament annually on the audited and
66. The Legal Aid Advisory Committee has a statutory
responsibility under Article 23 of the 1981 Order to consider
and provide the Lord Chancellor with advice on the operation and
finance of the legal aid scheme. The Legal Aid Advisory Committee
Report is published and laid before Parliament.
67. The Law Society's Legal Aid Annual Report is published
and laid before Parliament each year. The Report comprises the
Law Society's report on the operation and finance of the Legal
Aid Committee and of the Legal Aid Department, including the audited
statement of accounts and the Legal Aid Advisory Committee's report.
This report is widely circulated and is available from the Stationery
68. The privilege between a lawyer and client who is
in receipt of civil legal aid is protected by the 1981 Order.
The fact that legal services are funded by legal aid does not
affect the client's relationship with his legal advisors, nor
any privilege arising out of that relationship other than for
the purposes of administering legal aid.
69. The Taxing Master has general oversight of remuneration
both in respect of full civil legal aid, where cases are referred
to him for taxation, and criminal legal aid, where cases above
a level are referred to him for approval or the re-determination
of Appropriate Authority determinations (appeals). The High Court
has supervisory jurisdiction through appeal procedures.
70. The Legal Aid Committee publishes each year as part
of the key statistics presented in support of its annual report,
details of the success rate of legally aided cases decided in
Notification of Award of Civil Legal Aid
71. When civil legal aid is granted the opposing party
is put on notice that a civil legal aid certificate has been granted.
As a result the opposing party is free to pass any information
which may be relevant and known to the opposing party to the Legal
Criminal Legal Aid Applications
72. Applications for criminal legal aid are made and
granted or refused in open court.
Lay Representation on Appropriate Authority
73. A lay representative sits as a member of the Appropriate
Authority with a solicitor and a barrister to determine costs
awarded in individual cases in criminal matters.
74. To address concerns the following steps have been
(a) the introduction of Management Statements and Financial
Memorandums setting out the responsibilities and relationships
between the key parties;
(b) the Legal Aid Department of the Law Society has been
subject to continual review and has new organisational structures
(c) a new computer system has been procured which will
significantly improve management information and operational efficiency;
(d) a review of the systems in relation to the grant of
criminal legal aid has been undertaken and control measures introduced,
together with training and supply of information for key judiciary;
(e) an Internal Audit Service has been established within
the Legal Aid Department (through the secondment of an auditor
(f) a review of the Green Form Scheme (including ABWOR)
has been completed to address control weaknesses identified by
the Northern Ireland Audit Office;
(g) a major review of the existing legislation has been
undertaken by the Government; there has been extensive consultation
and decisions on reforms are in the course of being made.
The following documents are enclosed:
(a) the Consultation Paper "Public Benefit and the
(b) the latest published Law Society Annual Report (for
1997-98) and the associated Legal Aid Advisory Committee's response
(2nd section of the report).
Not reproduced. Back