Legal aid claims assessed by the courts could be handled by the Legal Aid Agency in a move that has sparked conflict of interest concerns about the decision-making process.Courts would usually conduct an assessment where, in civil proceedings concluded in front of a district judge or higher, the costs incurred were over £2,500. However, the LAA now wants these claims to be handled by its civil finance team.The agency says that in recent weeks, many providers have not been paid for cases because of court closures during the Covid-19 lockdown. Bringing the work in-house would result in faster payments and help to ease cash flow for providers. The change would be permanent.The agency conducted a two-week ‘operational’ consultation, seeking feedback from the Law Society, Legal Aid Practitioners’ Group, Citizens Advice Bureau and Shelter.The proposal has been met with scepticism.The Law Society said it was aware of members’ deep concerns. Richard Miller, head of justice, said: ‘The LAA has not consulted us on the change itself, only on the mechanics of doing so. There is a significant conflict of interest where the assessor is also the paying party. In our response, we have emphasised the need for the assessment process to have a genuinely independent element to it.’The Legal Aid Practitioners Group, in its consultation response, said the LAA should have conducted a lengthy consultation process. ‘Further, the judicial process is independent of the LAA and the identity of the decision maker is known, i.e. the costs judge. Whereas, the identity of the LAA caseworker is not disclosed and as such their experience and training is not accounted for to the provider,’ the group added.Law firm Irwin Mitchell, which submitted a response, said it was concerned that there will be pressure on LAA assessors to limit costs claims for the purposes of key performance indicators or general internal policy.LAPG chief executive Chris Minnoch said: ‘We want it to work. We don’t want the LAA to fail. We want them to get it right. They need to be working with us and practitioners to ensure these processes are open, transparent and robust.’A spokesperson for the agency said: ‘The LAA already processes 100% of these assessed cost claims, and the majority of these bills have been paid within five days. We continue to work with operational partners to streamline the process, leading to faster resolution and payment for all parties.’The agency stressed that assessors will not be giving incentives to minimise costs claims. Around 200 claims have voluntarily been submitted to the LAA and the agency said it has received positive feedback on payment speed.
The Baltimore Orioles played two split squad games today. They Lost 9-6 to the Philadelphia Phillies during the day and then tied the Minnesota Twins 1-1. Dylan Bundy got the start in the day game, but things did not go well for Bundy in his first start of the Spring.The Orioles took an early lead in the top of the second inning when Luis Sardinas doubled home Chance Sisco.After escaping a jam for a clean first inning for Bundy, he found himself in another one in the second. With runners on first and third and one out, Roman Quin tied the game up with a chopped ball to Chris Davis who hesitated looking at home and ended up not having a play anywhere. With the bases loaded and two outs, Bundy gave up a grand slam to Jorge Alfaro to make it 5-1 after two innings.The Oriole got a run back in the top of the third. Cedric Mullins lead off the inning with a walk and then Anthony Santander reached on catcher interference. A balk call then put them on second and third. Chris Davis and Ryan Mountcastle both struck out, but a wild pitch would allow Mullins to score before Chance Sisco eventually struck to end the inning.The Phillies were able to get another run off Andrew Faulkner in the fifth inning when Will Middlebrooks singled home Adam Rosales.The Orioles made it six to three in the seventh inning when Audry Perez singled back up the middle, glancing off the pitcher’s glove, and scoring Cedric Mullins.The Oriole were within one run after the top of the eight inning. T.J. Nichting doubled home Mason McCoy. Santander then singled to bring home Nichting and make it six to five.The Phillies were able to pull away in the bottom of the inning though. Jason Gurka came on to the mound and gave up three runs and making it nine to six going into the ninth.Perez got another RBI and a consolation run in the bottom of the ninth when he homered to left-center field.One other note from this game- Phillies player, Will Middlebrooks, had to be carted off after a collision with a teammate chasing a fly ball.The Orioles then played another game back home in Sarasota against the Minnesota Twins. This game had far less happen then the early game, finishing at a one all tie.Nestor Cortes hung a slider to Kennys Vargas to lead of the second inning with a double. Vargas was able to move up to third on a flyout, and then score on a sac fly the next at bat to give the Twins an early lead.The only other run came when Austin Wynns launched a home run into left-center.Other notes- The Orioles loaded the bases three times in this game, and were not able to score a run each time.Orioles starters have given up at least a run in each game so far.All three home runs this spring training have come from catchers, Sisco, Perez, and Wynns.Please follow and like us: