John M Hayes are always thorough and meticulous in the preparation of bills but more importantly than that they are very approachable and willing to help. Dealing with them is a pleasure.
Brendan McNeany, Partner, Samuel Phillips
Did you know that at John M Hayes, we can provide attendance at a detailed assessment hearing and appeals of detailed assessments on a legal aid basis.
The circumstances in which an attendance at Court may be required:
· Where the legally aided client has a financial interest (e.g. stat charge, revocation of certificate, paying contributions) and upon the bill of costs being sent to the client has requested to attend the assessment hearing; or
· Following the assessment of a legal aid bill of costs, the provider disputes the assessment.
The costs of attending a detailed assessment hearing (requested by the client) is recoverable and the Court will order this to be claimed against the legal aid fund, therefore the position is costs neutral by instructing us as the experts.
When a provider wishes to appeal against the detailed assessment of their costs in a legally aided case, the following factors must be considered:
(a) The amount in issue;
(b) The merits of their argument, and
(c) Any wider principle involved.
If the appeal succeeds then the Court will award the costs of the appeal from the legal aid fund. If this happens then the client does not have to pay a contribution in respect of those costs; and the costs do not add to the statutory charge.
The matter was a housing possession case, in which the Claimant housing association brought the claim against the legally aided client on the basis of anti-social behaviour. A bill of costs was originally prepared by John M Hayes in the sum of £14,116.74 (inclusive of VAT) and included a 50% enhancement on non-routine items for the following reasons:
· The case was exceptionally complex involving a number of issues, both factually and legally;
· The case related to alleged anti-social behaviour of which a substantive number of the allegations were contested;
· There was complex expert evidence regarding the Defendant’s mental health a number of applicable complex legal principles from a wide range of areas of law including housing, mental capacity, equality, human rights, public and civil procedural law;
· The Defendant suffered from autism, a psychosis disorder and ADHD, which meant he lacked capacity to conduct the proceedings and had to be represented by a litigation friend;
· The fact that a more than positive outcome was ultimately obtained in that the proceedings were discontinued .
In the initial provisional assessment, the District Judge had disallowed the entire 50% enhancement on the non-routine items, which amounted to £1381.05 plus VAT.
John M Hayes received instructions from the solicitor following the provisional assessment and they requested our advice on whether there were merits to appeal and we advised that there were and at least some of the enhancement, if not all, should have been allowed.
Attending the appeal of the provisional assessment in front of the same District Judge that had originally conducted the provisional assessment, the advocate from John M Hayes successfully articulated the test that the Court had to apply when considering an enhancement with reference to the Standard Civil Contract 2019 and Costs Assessment Guidance. Following these submissions, the District Judge allowed the 50% enhancement as originally claimed along with the costs of attending the hearing.
The end result for the instructing solicitors was an additional £1381.05 plus VAT (11.7% of the original bill of costs) for the enhancement and £572 for the costs draftsman attending the appeal hearing.
With legal aid, a provider has to ensure that they are obtaining everything they are entitled to from the fund and maximising your costs where applicable. Therefore attendance at detailed assessments and appealing decisions from a provisional assessment are vitally important, when every penny matters.
As you can see at John M Hayes we take all aspects of legal aid costing seriously and leave no stone unturned in order to maximise your costs. Call us today to see how we can assist you with any aspect of legal aid billing as experts.
Tuesday 11th February 2020