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Submission of summary criminal applications within 14 days

Summary criminal legal aid applications need to be submitted to SLAB within 14 days of the pleading diet, although we have the discretion to accept late applications on cause shown.

As part of SLAB’s contribution to the work of the Scottish Government’s Summary Justice System Model project, which is seeking ways of improving the efficiency of the summary courts, we have been looking at the submission rates of summary criminal applications from around the country.

One of the aims of the project is to reduce churn in the courts. As part of this it’s important we get early submission of summary criminal legal aid applications. The sooner we get applications, the sooner we can take decisions, which reduces the chance of cases having to be adjourned because legal aid is not in place.

Our January 2013 update to the profession explained a change to our previous policy of advising that applications should not be sent to us unless complete with the necessary financial documentation, even if this meant forms were sent outwith the 14 day period.

That advice was appropriate when applications were sent in paper form but is no longer valid as the application process is now completely online and we check the majority of applications through the DWP link.

As the January 2013 update indicated, applications should be submitted to us as early as possible, even without full financial verification.

While this is different to the advice we give for civil applications (for legitimate efficient processing reasons), it is appropriate for summary criminal applications. Although there is no 14-day rule for Solemn Applications, early submissions of those applications are also in everyone’s interest.

Clearly, we would prefer summary applications to be submitted to us with all the necessary documentation, but the earlier they are sent to us, the easier it is to follow this up with financial verification at a subsequent date and minimise or avoid delays for the court.

Early receipt of the online application generates the appropriate reference number which can then be used to submit financial documentation etc. We have also identified a clear link between delay in submitting a criminal legal aid application and initial rejections by the DWP link, leading to more continuations for further information than would otherwise be the case.

For more information:

Kingsley Thomas, Head of Criminal Legal Assistance, 0131 240 2085

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