Tighter restrictions on the use and funding of Expert evidence in private and public law cases involving children has created problems.
The abolition of Legal Aid for most private law family cases and the cutting of legal aid rates for DNA testing has left 100’s of cases in the lurch.
Earlier in the year the Court of Appeal gave its long awaited Judgement and found that the Legal Services Commission (now the LAA) was wrong to refuse to pay more than one third of an Expert’s fees because it believed the parents should pay the other two thirds.
The Legal Aid Agency must now look at each case rather than adopt an absolute refusal to pay the fees in full.
In April the Children and Families Act 2004 put into statue the 2013 practice direction that an expert cannot be instructed in a children case unless the Court is satisfied it is “necessary” as opposed to just being “reasonable”.
There is also another new chilling development in addition to Case Management Orders which focus on who is at fault if a Public Law Children Case goes over a 26 week deadline.
The MOJ has also reduced rates for experts in family cases by 20% but it is widely thought that it will have to monitor its impact.
Part of the tension arises between the Courts saying no delays and the Practitioners having to rummage around to find an expert who will work for the Legal Aid rates.
What also happens is the LAA will pay expert fees on account and then a year later when a firm gets the final bill assessed they change their minds and say the expert shouldn’t have been paid.
By then many firms have already handed over the money and so have to take a hit.
The gloves are clearly off.
to find out more or to talk to Paul or another member of our family team, contact us at one of our offices in Boston, Lincoln, Grantham, Sleaford, Spalding and Newark.