A recent ruling by The Court of Appeal found that the Legal Aid Agency acted unlawfully in refusing to fully fund the cost of an expert witness report ordered by the Family Court for a child.

The Legal Aid Agency refused to pay more than one-third of an expert’s fee in a case under the Children Act 1989 where only the child concerned had Legal Aid.  The parents did not have the benefit of public funding and represented themselves.

The Law Society intervened arguing that where an expert’s report is sought and only the child has public funding, it would be legitimate for the Legal Aid Agency to bear the full costs of such report; that the Family Court has to be able to obtain the expert evidence it needs to help decide a child’s future without being blocked by the Legal Aid authorities, otherwise the Court and the child are left without a report that the Judge has said it requires to make those decisions.

It was argued that parents who are not legally aided should pay their share of the expert’s fee but the Court accepted the Law Society’s argument.

The judgment means that in future the Legal Aid Agency must look at the facts of a specific case to decide whether it should pay the fees in full.

This judgment also means that where unrepresented parents cannot afford to commission expert evidence by the Court and the Child’s guardian considers such evidence necessary, it may still be appropriate for the full costs to be paid by the child through their Legal Aid Certificate.

For further information or advice contact our family team at our offices in Lincoln, Boston, Grantham, Sleaford, Spalding and Newark.

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