Last year’s High Court ruling that the government’s safety net scheme for people denied civil legal aid was unlawful is believed to be the main reason for the government receiving the highest number of applications for exceptional funding in nearly three years.
However, this figure is expected to fall after the ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeal in May.
Latest quarterly statistics show that the Legal Aid Agency received 424 applications for exceptional case funding between April and June this year, the highest in a single quarter for nearly three years.
Nine in 10 of the applications were new; the remaining 41 were resubmitted for review. Just over half of the applications were granted.
The LAA said the impact of last year’s High Court judgment, Director of legal aid casework and lord chancellor v IS, may have contributed to the high volume of applications granted. Applications with a poor or borderline prospect of success had to be considered for funding.
However, in June the agency announced that legal aid would no longer be made available for cases with poor or borderline prospects of success that may have received funding following the Court of Appeal’s ruling in May that the safety net scheme was lawful.
The agency’s latest statistics bulletin states that this decision is unlikely to have affected figures between June and August this year, 'but may have more of an impact in the future’.
Immigration accounted for just over half of the applications received between April and June. Of the 216 applications the agency dealt with in this area of law, 153 were granted.
Two in 10 applications between April and June were made directly by the client – the highest proportion in a quarter since the scheme began three years ago, and double the proportion this time last year.
The agency said the increase may be as a result of simplifications brought into the exceptional case funding application form, implemented in response to the judicial review.