No legal aid changes required to accommodate the new Practice Note on Taking Evidence of Vulnerable Witnesses by a Commissioner


Friday, Jun 02, 2017

What’s new? The High Court’s new Practice Note on Taking Evidence of a Vulnerable Witness by a Commissioner came into force on Monday 8 May 2017.  The new Practice Note sets out in more detail what needs to be addressed by a solicitor in dealing with Vulnerable Witness notices, as well as the matters which are expected to be covered at the hearing.
 
Paragraph 6 of the Practice Note refers to the Crown letting the defence know of any commissions it is seeking at the earliest opportunity so that appropriate legal aid cover can be arranged. Legal aid arrangements do not need to change to accommodate the new Practice Note. 

Applications process

By the time this stage in the proceedings has been reached, most cases will have legal aid granted. Where an accused is in receipt of legal aid, prior sanction is not required for work associated with a commission, unless the defence costs are likely to exceed £2,000, where sanction for unusually large expenditure is needed. 

Payments to solicitors

 

Solicitors’ payments are unchanged as Schedule 1, Part 2 of the Criminal Legal Aid (Scotland) (Fees) Regulations 1989 already makes provision in solemn proceedings at paragraphs 6(b) and (e) respectively for separate block fees, unless the procedure is dealt with in the course of the preliminary hearing or first diet, including any continued diets, of £152.00 for all “work in connection with a vulnerable witnesses application, in terms of section 271A, B, C or D of the 1995 Act and/or all work in connection with evidence on commission”. The solicitor is also entitled to claim separately for any court related work (e.g. travel, waiting and any conduct or sitting behind counsel), in addition to the block fees.

In circumstances where a vulnerable witness application and/or an application for evidence by way of commission is considered at the Preliminary Hearing or a First Diet, including any continued diets, the block fees are not engaged and solicitors must charge for all necessary work on the basis of Part 1, detailed fees.

For further information, please contact:
Kingsley Thomas, Head of Criminal Legal Assistance, thomaski@slab.org.uk
or
Steven Carrie, Senior Accounts Specialist, carriest@slab.org.uk


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