The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) admitted, in December 2018, that a review of the effectiveness of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) reforms would be published ‘early in the New Year’. We reported on this set-back in edition 257 of BC Disease News (here).
Until this week, there was still no sign of the Ministerial publication, which was now 2 months overdue.
In Parliament, Lucy Frazer QC, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the MoJ, was grilled by Labour MP, Stephanie Peacock, on the issue of delay.[i]
In response, Ms Frazer QC assured the House that, while the LASPO review should be ‘expected shortly’, 'this is a serious matter that takes time'.
Almost immediately, it was announced yesterday that the Post-Implementation Review of Part 2 of LASPO had been published.[ii]
On the GOV.UK website, the MoJ set out the conclusions of the review, which were resoundingly positive:
‘The Government considers that, on balance, the evidence suggests that the Part 2 reforms have been successful against their objectives. The evidence available and the views expressed by stakeholders indicate that costs have been reduced, that fewer unmeritorious cases are being taken forward and that access to justice at proportionate cost is generally being achieved.
As the Part 2 reforms, as a package, have met their objectives and are functioning effectively, the Government is not proposing any amendments to the primary legislation. The Government will keep the detailed suggestions for reform of rules and regulations under review, as it will all aspects of the reforms more generally’.[iii]
In spite of this, the Government has highlighted 2 key areas of concern from the responses to the consultation: qualified one-way costs shifting (QOCS) and limited uptake of damages based agreements (DBA).
Action is likely to be taken on DBAs later this year, after a separate review is undertaken, while an extension of the QOCS regime to cases outside of personal injury has been ruled out until the threat of unintended consequences for defendants has been addressed.
Full details of the Part 2 review can be accessed here.
[i] Monidipa Fouzder, ‘Still 'early in the new year': MoJ insists LASPO review will be out shortly’ (5 February 2019 Law Gazette) <https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/still-early-in-the-new-year-moj-insists-laspo-review-will-be-out-shortly-/5069159.article> accessed 6 February 2019.
[ii] John Hyde, ‘LASPO part 2: MoJ content that civil reforms have driven down costs’ (7 February 2019 Law Gazette) <https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/laspo-part-2-moj-content-that-civil-reforms-have-driven-down-costs/5069194.article> accessed 7 February 2019.
[iii] Ministry of Justice, ‘Post-Implementation Review of Part 2 of LASPO’ (7 February 2019 GOV.UK) <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/post-implementation-review-of-part-2-of-laspo> accessed 7 February 2019.