POA Circulars

22 | 10.03.2014

Changes to Crown Eligibility Threshold

The provisions contained within the POA Legal Aid Scheme have had to be extended to facilitate the revised criteria for applications in respect of Crown Court Legal Aid.

Following the introduction of a financial eligibility threshold from the 27th January 2014, the Legal Aid Committee have been working with our retained solicitors Thompsons to establish a protocol and set of arrangements to support members.

At the National Executive Committee meeting on the 26th February 2014, the Executive approved the protocol and arrangements.

The revised financial eligibility threshold is £37,500 for all new applications for Legal Aid in the Crown Court; this has been imposed by the coalition Government.

Therefore anyone with a joint annual household disposable income of below £37,500, the current rules remain unchanged; Household’s with a joint annual household disposable income in excess of £37,500 will no longer be eligible to apply for state legal aid and will be responsible for their own legal costs. In essence, members will have to fund their defence on a private basis. Should the member ultimately be found not guilty, an application can be made to reclaim defence costs from Central Funds. However, payments from Central Funds will only be at legal aid rates. The end result is that members will find themselves out of pocket having defended themselves against malicious allegations from prisoners or as a result of legal proceedings.

It is not unusual for private client hourly rates to be set in excess of £100 per hour plus VAT or more for complex cases.

Whilst there is a review mechanism allowing an applicant as having joint annual disposable income of £37,500, to demonstrate that they cannot afford to pay privately for their case, any such application for a review must be made within 21 days of the date of the refusal notice sent by the Court. How these reviews will work is yet unknown, but we are currently keeping this situation under review and will advise members accordingly in due course.

Therefore, it is vital for all members to contact Thompsons 24 hour criminal helpline on 0800587 7530 in the event that they are arrested or requested to attend a Police Station.

Remember members should not be interviewed in the absence of a Solicitor.

If members have no alternative, but other than to use the duty solicitor, they must contact Thompsons as soon as possible and or the Legal Department at Cronin House, to ensure the papers/case is transferred to Thompsons to ensure members interests are protected.

This Government has continually attacked employment rights and civil liberties through anti trade union legislation. Whilst the POA and other Unions continue to fight for justice, the cost to access justice is becoming more unrealistic, unless workers have the protection of a Union. The POA will continue to provide legal services to its members in accordance with the Rules.

Recently it has been brought to the attention of the Executive that there has been a significant increase in the number of POA members facing criminal investigations, as a direct result of their work activities.

Therefore, the Executive urge all POA members to encourage non-members to join the POA to ensure their rights are protected.

Please draw the contents of this circular to your members and display this Circular permanently on POA notice boards.

Yours sincerely

 

 

STEVE GILLAN
General Secretary