Removal of the Crown Link online opt out in criminal applications


Thursday, Nov 14, 2013

From Monday 18 November 2013, the facility to opt out of SLAB’s Legal Aid Online Crown Link will be removed for all types of criminal applications.

With the move to online applications, we developed this electronic link with the Crown Office so that copy complaints and petitions can be automatically downloaded by SLAB on receipt of the legal aid application.

If the application has the correct client details (forename, surname and date of birth) and Procurator Fiscal reference number, the Crown Office automatically sends us the relevant copy complaint/petition, details of previous convictions, and the summary of evidence.

This is designed to assist solicitors in the application process by removing the need for you to scan these additional documents to us. At present, about 70- 80% of all summary and solemn applications give us permission to obtain these documents in this way.

Solicitors who currently allow us to download these documents direct from the Crown have told us that this helps to reduce the workloads in submitting legal aid applications, as well as speeding up the decision-making process.

We have been considering the removal of the opt out for some months now and have consulted widely with the Law Society and other Bar Associations on this. The Law Society were content with the removal of the opt out, and they also sought the views of their members on this. We were subsequently advised that they only received one adverse comment to this.

Given the minimal feedback, the Society had no objection to the removal of the opt-out facility. Over the summer we also sent a notification to solicitors when they chose to opt out of this facility, pointing out the benefits to them of using the COPFS link, and re-assuring them that access to the disclosable summary does not reduce the likelihood of a grant of legal aid in any way. In all 385 notifications were sent to 159 firms.

Only one adverse comment was received back, all the other comments we received pointed out that the opt out had been chosen in error, and a few firms asked us to stop sending the notifications as they had got the message about the link.

We are aware that a small number of solicitors had some concerns about SLAB receiving the summary of evidence. These summaries are not normally considered by us unless the information provided on the application is very poor. Our grant rates have not reduced since the original availability of them, nor since the link was introduced. If the client’s defence to the charge is at odds with the information contained in the summary, this is more likely to lead to a grant of legal aid rather than a refusal.

By accessing the documents directly from the Crown we reduce the amount of work you have to do. You do not need to send us the documents separately, making the process more streamlined.

The only exception to this is in summary criminal applications which have been reduced from solemn procedure. In these cases, we are not able to obtain a copy of the new summary complaint directly from the Crown system, so solicitors need to send us copies of the new complaints with the application as a scanned attachment or by using the bar code facility.

For more information please contact Kingsley Thomas, Manager of Criminal Legal Assistance, on thomaski@slab.org.uk or 0131 240 2085. 


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