Travel Bolt On Legal Aid: Family Advocacy Scheme
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Legal aid is a service financed by public funding. It facilitates legal services for individuals who have serious legal issues and cannot afford to pay the legal costs. It applies in a variety of types of cases, such as family law or criminal law matters. It may be allowed in situations where individuals are at risk of domestic violence, individuals have been accused of a crime and are facing a prison sentence or when an individual is bringing a human rights claim to the court. This list is not exhaustive and you should seek expert advice to assess whether you would be eligible for legal aid.
In some cases, legal aid will not cover all of an individual’s costs, and they may be asked to pay some of the aid back if their income changes, they receive property or damages at the end of the claim, or if they lose their case and have to pay the winning party’s legal costs.
What can be claimed under the Family Advocacy Scheme (FAS)?
The Family Advocacy Scheme is in place to provide fixed fees for payment of solicitors for private and public law advocacy.
Within Schedule 3 of The Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) Regulations 2013, the fees and rates for advocates is specified. For example, for a care or supervision proceeding of one hour in the High Court, a fee earner would receive £114.48.
This figure accounts for payment of the work done in court, though the advocate should also consider whether they can recover their travel disbursements.
When considering travel costs, the solicitor needs to divide their travel expenses into categories. Normal travel costs are considered to be included in the FAS fee though travel mileage, travel disbursements and exceptional travel expenses can be examined separately, as they may be recoverable via bolt-on fees.
Travel Bolt On Legal Aid: Exceptional Travel Expenses
On most matters, travel expenses will be covered by the Family Advocacy Scheme. Though, Section 7.154 of the Family Standard Civil Contract 2018 highlights that travel which exceeds 25 miles each way for the advocate is exceptional. Therefore, this is not included in the fee stated in Schedule 3 of the aforementioned legislation.
Thus, an additional fee can be sought for this expense. Though it has to have been reasonable to instruct the advocate, as opposed to an advocate who was situated closer to the court.
How are Exceptional Travel Expenses recovered?
These expenses can be recovered as an additional bolt-on fee under the FAS. Bolt-on fees can be recovered for 6 types of expense, with exceptional travel being one.
At present, a solicitor cannot attempt to recover a bolt-on fee via the FAS form. Instead, they must claim the additional fee separately, or instruct a costs draftsman to assess the location of the court attended and the distance from the advocate’s office.
Travel Mileage Costs
If travel has been classified as exceptional, the solicitor can claim their mileage back. Therefore, they would have to have travelled over 25 miles in the car. The standard mileage recovery rate is 45p per mile.
To recover this expense, a solicitor would have to explicitly detail the postcode of their office and the court. Furthermore, if their petrol costs were above £20, they would need to provide a receipt for the purchase. This rule also applies to other disbursements above £20.
Similarly to exceptional travel expenses, a solicitor can recover their travel disbursements as a travel bolt-on fee (Legal Aid). These disbursements may include bus fares or taxi fees. Though, the reasonableness test will be applied when assessing these costs as solicitors will not be allowed to have disproportionately incurred disbursements.
A further exclusion on the recovery of travel disbursements is ‘local travel’. ‘Local travel’ to visit the client is recoverable at the hourly rate for travel time. However, it is highlighted in the Practice Direction for Civil Procedure Rule 47.6 that if the solicitor has only had to travel within 10 miles to the court, their travel disbursements will not be recoverable on assessment.
How can ARC Costs assist?
The team at ARC Costs consists of experienced costs lawyers and costs draftsmen who can be relied upon to provide an expert costs drafting and advocacy service.
When aiding clients on costs for legal aid matters, the team can be trusted to locate the recoverable costs effectively. Therefore, we can identify when a costs could be recoverable as a travel bolt-on Legal Aid fee and make a point of recovering this for our client, if appropriate.
When preparing a bill of costs, our costs draftsmen take time to ensure that it is exact and comprehensive. Furthermore, we deliver a prompt service and return the document within 5 working days.
To find out about how we can help you, please provide us with your email address on our free chat facility. Alternatively, you can contact us at 01204 397302.
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