We advised you in our May update, that as a result of the changes to the fee regulations, the initial expenditure levels in Criminal ABWOR fixed fee cases (£550 in Sheriff Court cases, and £185 in JP Court cases) need to be increased if a Criminal Justice Social Work (CJSW) report is being considered in the first two deferred sentence hearings. The add-on fee for that element of work means that the fee will exceed the limits (£551.57 in sheriff court cases, and £189.57 in JP court cases).
We have now introduced an update to Legal Aid Online with an easier way of requesting an increase in the limit for these cases at the time of submitting the ABWOR application.
When submitting your ABWOR application, if a CJSW report has been, or is likely to be requested in a case, on the ABWOR details tab you should select ‘yes’ to the question ‘Is an SER/CJSW likely?’
If ABWOR is approved, this will increase the expenditure limit to £600 in Sheriff Court Cases and £250 in JP court cases, giving you sufficient expenditure to cover the add on fee for the CJSW report. This can also be used for a third deferred sentence hearing if the CJSW report is not considered at either of the first two deferred sentence hearings. Although no separate increase application is submitted, you will receive a notification to advise you that an increase has been registered and where ABWOR is granted you will receive a further notification to advise that an increase has been granted.
More details on the changes to the online system can be found in this guidance.
The change has been added to the legal aid guidance.
This is the easiest way of getting prior approval for the increased expenditure to meet all the fixed fees. You should still apply for an increase for any outlays or subsequent deferred sentences in the usual way.
Please contact Kingsley Thomas, Head of Criminal Legal Assistance