UK law firm wins appeal against legal aid agency fee cut

The firm deserved a recalculation of its fee due to its substantial case management activities

UK law firm wins appeal against legal aid agency fee cut

Hussain Solicitors, a law firm based in the United Kingdom, has successfully appealed against the Legal Aid Agency's decision to reduce its fee for a cracked trial.

A costs judge ruled that the trial had "begun in a meaningful sense," entitling the firm to a recalculation of the graduated fee and the appeal costs.

Hussain Solicitors represented a defendant charged with possessing a prohibited weapon and conspiracy to supply controlled drugs. At the trial's outset, the prosecution indicated that charges against some defendants had been resolved and requested time to determine if the remaining charges could also be resolved. During this period, jury selection began but faced issues, resulting in the release of the entire panel. A new jury was to be selected the following day. Subsequently, the defendant changed his plea regarding two of the four counts, with the remaining charges left on file.

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The firm submitted a claim based on a two-day trial. The determining officer initially agreed that the definition of a cracked trial—where the defendant offers acceptable pleas on the trial date or the prosecution presents no evidence—had been met, and payment was made accordingly. However, costs judge found that Hussain Solicitors deserved a recalculation of the graduated fee due to substantial case management activities that justified the trial's meaningful commencement.

"There were some matters of substantial case management which justify concluding that the trial had begun in a meaningful sense," the judge stated. He noted the importance of the application for severance of the indictment, describing it as a "substantial matter of case management even though it does not appear that the application was made at the hearing before the defendant changed his plea."

The judge further elaborated that the advocates' submissions regarding the suitability of the first jury were undoubtedly significant. "The judge called upon the advocates to make submissions in this case at the outset but it seems to me difficult to conclude that that was not a substantial matter of case management."

As a result of the ruling, Hussain Solicitors will receive the "appropriate additional payment." Additionally, the judge ordered the Legal Aid Agency to pay £1,500 in costs and the £100 appeal fee.

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