The Legal Aid Agency is looking at whether to resume publishing responses to freedom of information requests, the Gazette has learned.
According to minutes published last week for the March meeting of the Civil Contracts Consultative Group, representative bodies asked whether LAA responses would be published. The consultative group, which meets every two months, includes representatives from the Law Society, Bar Council, Legal Aid Practitioners Group, law centres and several other bodies.
The minutes state that that the agency has not published responses for two years ‘and would have to understand what were the drivers behind the interest to see them published’.
An LAA representative told the meeting the task would be resource intensive, the subject of the FOI requests is repetitive and involves duplication of responses.
However, Chris Minnoch, chief executive of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, told the meeting that if all requests and responses were published and easily searchable, it was likely that new requests would not be made about matters that were already in the public domain.
The Gazette understands that the three most common requests are about legal aid costs in specific cases, eligibility and availability, and operational procedure. The agency will put forward a plan at the next meeting of the consultative group.
According to the LAA’s 2018-19 annual report, all FOI requests were answered in 20 days against a target of 90%. The 2019-20 report will be published next month.