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Under new guidelines any legal aid bill submitted for assessment more than 3 months after it could first have been sent in may be subject to deduction penalties unless firms can show good cause for late submission.

The new rules apply to any bills submitted after 31st July 2000.

Legal Aid Bills - Out-of-Time - Penalties

In the matter of Homes Assured Corporation Plc, the Official Receiver -v- Dobson and others, Samson and another -v- Wilson and another (ChD 28.11.01 unreported).

These were Appeals from detailed assessments to Mr Justice Parkes sitting with Assessors.

In the first case the Costs Judge disallowed the profit costs in their entirety.

In the second case the Costs Judge also disallowed the profit costs in their entirety.

On Appeal it was held on the authorities relating to delay that the court was not confronted with the stark choice between a reprimand but no sanction on the one hand and a total striking out on the other. The court can graduate the penalty. There is a built in sanction for delay in lodging a public funding bill in that no interest is payable on the outstanding costs and it is only the Solicitors who are prejudiced by the delay. The delay is positively beneficial to the Legal Services Commission who suffer no discernible prejudice while the delay in no way impeded the normal and efficient assessment of the bill.

Regulation 109(1) did not authorise the Costs Judge to disallow costs because he disapproved of the firm's conduct of the assessment. Whether an item of costs in a bill was wasted or not must depend on circumstances as they existed when the item was incurred. In the second case where the Costs Judge disallowed the profit costs in their entirety it was held that the delay could not justify disallowance of all the profit costs by way of penalty which was disproportionate to such an extent that it went beyond the acceptable limits for the exercise of the Costs Judges discretion. The bill was remitted for a detailed assessment to a different Costs Judge who should also determine whether there should be a Regulation 109 reduction and if so what a proportionate reduction would be.

Late submission of Civil Bills for Assessment by the Commission.

Costs Appeals Committee

Point of Principle
CLA 27 27th August 2001
It is a question of fact in every case whether there is good reason, or any exceptional circumstances exist, enabling the Regional Director to extend the time limit in Regulation 105 (3a) Civil Legal Aid (General) Regulations 1989. Where proceedings continue without interruption, and there is no point at which it would normally be appropriate, or at which it is in the client's interest, for an interim bill to be prepared (such as on transfer to the County Court), but where the client has more than one certificate, the Regional Director is likely to have good reason for extending the time limit in relation to the claim for work done under the first certificate.

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