The Legal Aid Agency says it is amending a new electronic application form for criminal legal aid after lawyers flagged up – three months ago – a problem with a declaration that they are required to sign.
The agency is in the process of rolling out the new CRM14 eForm as part of its programme to move criminal applications and billing online.
But in a Q&A session at the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association Conference last week, one firm revealed that it had to abandon the form in July, a month after starting to use it.
The eForm requires a legal representative to sign a declaration that they have ‘gone through the questions on the interests of justice and financial assessment aspects of the application with the applicant and shown them what I have recorded’.
Nick Walsh, partner and higher courts advocate at Nottingham firm VHS Fletchers, said: ‘It sounds very easy, but in practical terms I want legal aid before the first hearing. I’m not going to wait until he’s charged and then show him the form. I’m going to do that in my office. And I can’t do that in my office because he isn’t with me when I submit that form. I can’t say I’ve [shown him the form].’
LAA programme manager Lisa Jeffery said that following a meeting with providers last month, the agency had agreed to amend the wording. The change was expected to be made last week.