The Legal Services Commission has announced that financial sanctions will be imposed on defendants who fail to provide evidence of means when applying for criminal legal aid in the Crown court.
The Crown court means-testing scheme was rolled out nationally earlier this year. The sanction for failure to provide evidence has been available to the LSC but has not yet been used.
The LSC has confirmed it will now be applied in cases where 'no satisfactory explanation' has been provided for the failure to provide the requested evidence.
If the sanctions are applied, defendants will be required to pay a contribution of £900 a month, or 100% of their 'disposable income', whichever is the greater.
The Law Society has advised practitioners that if their clients are having real difficulties obtaining evidence, it is essential that an explanation is provided to the court, if there is to be any possibility of avoiding the sanctions.
Chancery Lane is concerned that such harsh sanctions will punish those on low incomes who are unlikely to be able to pay such high amounts, since it is often the self-employed and those undertaking low-income casual work who have the most difficulty in obtaining such evidence.