Judge raps red tape delays as case halted

A SENIOR Yorkshire judge has criticised an attitude of “pettifogging bureaucracy” for delaying crucial legal aid decisions.

The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier QC, made his comments at Leeds Crown Court yesterday when he had to adjourn the case of a man on charges carrying up to 14 years in prison but currently unrepresented.

He said it was one of several cases drawn to his attention by solicitors recently facing difficulties with applications sent to the Legal Services Commission’s unit at Nottingham.

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The defendant, 53, was self employed and all forms had been completed, including additional financial reports. “That material was sent back to Nottingham a week ago and I am told by the solicitors they contacted the unit and asked that it should be expedited because the case was due in court today. I am told they met with a blank response.

“I sincerely hope that something will be done about both the attitudes and systems at Nottingham to enable cases to heard in court in a timely manner.”

A spokesperson for the LSC said: “A small proportion of applications are sent for processing where the applicant’s financial circumstances are more complex than usual. Normally we aim to process 90 per cent of applications within two days, and 100 per cent of means assessments within six days.

“However, we have recently had issues with some applications which have not been fully completed and a high proportion have had to be returned. Unfortunately that has led to some assessments being delayed, but we’re working very hard to reduce the backlog.”