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Published 15 December 2022

© Crown copyright 2022
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This edition comprises the first release of official statistics for the three-month period from July to September 2022 and the latest statement of all figures for previous periods. For more detailed commentary, and statistics on providers of legal aid, Central Funds and diversity in legal aid, please refer to the annual publication. For technical detail, please refer to the User guide to legal aid statistics.
This publication shows that expenditure across civil legal aid has increased year on year and has also increased more over the recent quarters. Following recovery from the impact of the pandemic, criminal legal aid expenditure has fallen in the most recent quarter due to strike action in the Crown Court in which impacted workload completed within the period.
Criminal legal aid workload for representation at the courts had returned to levels seen before covid but in the last few quarters we’ve seen falls in both courts suggesting a sustained fall in cases reaching court. In the most recent quarter, we have seen an increase in both police station claims and a corresponding representation orders at the magistrates’ court halting this trend. The increase to extended sentencing powers at the magistrates’ court, since implementation in May 2022, has been feeding through to overall volumes with less committals for sentence arriving at the Crown Court and subsequently more work held at the lower court.
Civil legal aid volumes and expenditure show a varied picture compared to last year. Overall civil expenditure is returning to pre-pandemic levels driven by family law expenditure. Other non-family workload has not recovered to the same extent and this is driven by a slow recovery of housing work although in the last quarter this has increased. Overall civil legal aid workload still remains below pre-pandemic levels although trends are increasing in domestic violence, mental health and, within exceptional case funding, immigration.
It was expected that criminal and civil legal aid volumes would return to, and even temporarily exceed, historic trend levels and more recent falls could be due to this return to normal levels.
These symbols are used throughout this release to navigate to other documents of interest:
To understand trends in legal aid as a whole, it is best to begin by looking at annual expenditure figures and then look at trends in both workload and expenditure for each category of legal aid. Summarising workload activity across the whole legal aid system meaningfully within a single number is difficult because of the diversity of services included and different stages in delivery. For example, legal aid work can be measured at the point when an order for legal aid is granted, or after all the legal aid work is completed and the provider has been paid. Expenditure on legal aid is measured differently for different purposes. The three most often-used measures, shown in Figure 1, are:
Closed-case expenditure is the measure used for expenditure figures throughout these legal aid statistics. It represents the total value of payments made to legal aid providers in relation to pieces of work that are completed in the period. This basis is comparable to volumes of completed work to which it relates, and to the same fine level of detail.
RDEL (Resource Departmental Expenditure Limits) nominal is the main budgeting measure used by government to control current spending, both to set budgets for future years and report on how much has been spent. It represents the value of work carried out in the period better than the closed-case measure but cannot be broken down to such a fine level of detail. This measure does incorporate income and expenditure in relation to debt. Nominal here means not adjusted for inflation.
RDEL real is the RDEL measure adjusted for inflation to make the value of spending in previous years directly comparable with the specified year.
These measures show a large reduction in legal aid expenditure from around 2010-11, mostly due to changes to the scope of civil legal aid introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act from 2013-14, reductions in criminal legal aid workloads and reductions in the fees payable to legal aid providers.
(see interactive breakdown here )
In the magistrates’ court the volume of completed work decreased by 5% and associated expenditure decreased by 7% when compared to the same period last year. Conversely at the police station the volume of work increased by 8% and associated expenditure increased by 9%.
For more information on trends in criminal legal aid see here
Criminal legal aid can be categorised into Crime Lower and Crime Higher.
Crime Lower (covered in this report includes police station advice, magistrates’ court and prison law. Table 2.1 provides the Crime Lower workload whereas table 2.2 gives the Crime Lower expenditure.
Crime Higher (covered in this report covers work in the Crown and Higher Courts.
(see interactive breakdown of crime)
Although Crown Court work comprises a relatively small portion of criminal legal aid in terms of volume, it accounts for around two-thirds of all criminal legal aid expenditure. Conversely, advice relating to the police station makes up the largest portion of workload, but a much smaller proportion of expenditure.
(see interactive breakdown of crime trend and crime lower)
(see interactive breakdown of crime trend and crime higher)
Note: Advice and assistance on appeals and civil work associated with crime are excluded from these figures.
This category made up more than two-thirds of the Crime Lower workload between July and September 2022 but half of the expenditure. The workload in this period has increased by 8% compared to the previous year, with expenditure increasing by 9% (£2.7m). This reverses the general downward trend seen over the last few years with a decrease in police station advice workload since 2013-14.
The majority of the police station advice workload (90% in July and September 2022) consists of suspects receiving legal help with a solicitor in attendance at the police station, with the rest mainly consisting of legal advice over the telephone.
While figures should be interpreted with caution as they may be revised in subsequent quarters as cases move into the Crown court, the number of orders granted for legally-aided representation in the Magistrates’ court increased by 3% this quarter when compared to the same quarter of the previous year. This reverses the downward trend of the last 3 years, which was largely driven by Summary Only cases.
Orders granted for legally-aided representation in the Crown court decreased by 3% this quarter compared to last year. Within the legal aid figure, orders relating to either-way were level and indictable offences increased by 6% compared to large falls of 20% in committals for sentence and appeals. These are driven by new extended sentencing powers for the magistrates’ courts with offences now remaining to be heard in the lower court. The proportion of Crown Court applications granted remains at almost 100%.
Legally-aided representation in the magistrates’ court comprised almost one-third of the workload and just under half of expenditure in Crime Lower between July and September 2022. The volume of completed work (covered in this report) in the magistrates’ court decreased by 5% this quarter when compared to the same period of the previous year. Expenditure also decreased by 7% (£2m).
These falls incorporate the accelerated Criminal legal aid reforms since October 2020 which cover payment for work on sending cases to the Crown Court. This new category shown in the tables accompanying this bulletin had 9,237 claims costing around £2.1m completed this quarter.
Completed work volumes within the litigator (solicitor) fee scheme decreased by 11% in July to September 2022 compared to the same period of the previous year, driven mainly by a 14% decrease in trial claims.
In the advocate fee scheme, completed claims decreased by 9% compared to the same period last year. Falls seen in both schemes this quarter are due to impacts on workload completed in September 2022 due to industrial action and the barrister strike.
(see interactive breakdown here)
In the litigator fee scheme, expenditure decreased by 7% in July to September 2022 compared to the same period of the previous year. In the advocate fee scheme, the value of payments decreased by 3% compared to the same period of the previous year. Again these figures are impacted by strike behaviour seen in September 2022. Figures for expenditure on work completed in the Crown Court should be interpreted with caution as they may be revised in subsequent quarters as claims are assessed further on appeal and further payments added to the value of some completed claims.
The Very High-Cost Case (VHCC) scheme covers those Crown Court cases which, if the case were to proceed to trial, would likely last more than 60 days. These cases can span several years and, while they may involve small numbers of defendants, the associated expenditure is high in comparison.
There was 1 defendant represented in the VHCC contracts that concluded in the July to September 2022 quarter. Expenditure on this work over the duration of the contracts (i.e. on the closed-case basis) was £529.2k. While workload comprises a tiny proportion of legal aid in the Crown Court overall, the VHCC scheme represents less than 1% of the cost, although down from over 15% ten years ago.
(see interactive breakdown here)
The large falls in completed expenditure are a consequence of the large fall in the number of jury trials completing in the Crown Court, as all expenditure across the case will be in the final main bill. Figure 4c below, looking at the litigator fee scheme in isolation but equally applicable to both schemes, shows the impact of falling trials on expenditure – these types of cases are more likely to be impacted as they need more courtroom space and distancing measures and are likely to include witnesses and members of the public in the jury pool. Trial completed expenditure has been more adversely affected than guilty pleas and cracked trials, where a defendant changes their plea before the trial, with litigator fee expenditure much lower.
(see interactive breakdown here)
Workload this quarter decreased by 2% compared with the same period in the previous year, driven by advocacy assistance at parole board hearings which decreased by 5% compared to last year and has increased by 6% since last quarter (see figure 5). Advocacy at parole board hearings currently makes up just over two-fifths of prison law workload, but a much larger proportion of costs (79%), so expenditure on prison law overall decreased by 7% over this period.
Since April to June 2020, the workload and expenditure for advocacy assistance at prison discipline hearings has remained low with a change in process for internal prisons hearings continuing since covid. Year-to-year comparisons show that workload increased by 19% and expenditure increased by 1% this quarter compared to last year. This quarter is compared against an all-time low number of claims and this category is around one-tenth the overall workload volume from before covid.
*New categories not shown: ‘advocacy assistance at sentence reviews’ and ‘advocacy assistance at Parole Board reconsideration hearings’
Civil legal aid closed case expenditure increased this quarter; up by 21% compared to July to September 2021. This increase is driven by family civil representation expenditure increasing by 24% over the same period. For more info on trends in civil legal aid see here
Civil legal aid can be categorised by area of law into family and non-family. The category of family legal aid covers all work on both private and public family law and includes work associated with the Children Act, domestic abuse, financial provision and family mediation. Non-family legal aid encompasses all work related to immigration, mental health, housing and other non-family law.
(see interactive breakdown of civil)
*Not included in the Family total
Although workload for family and non-family law cases are similar, Non-family comprises a relatively small proportion of civil legal aid expenditure. Public family legal aid makes up two thirds of family legal aid work and over 80% of expenditure.
In the last quarter, there was a 3% fall in legal help new matter starts compared to the same period of 2021. The volume of completed claims increased by 6% while expenditure decreased by 3% in July to September 2022 compared to the same period in 2021 (figure 7).
The implementation of the LASPO Act in April 2013 resulted in large reductions in legal help workload, with the decline in the overall trend being further exacerbated by the effects of covid-19, workload now sits at less than one-quarter of pre-LASPO levels.
(see interactive breakdown of legal help)
There was a steep decline in family legal help immediately following the implementation of LASPO Act in April 2013, with a more gradual decline over the last 6 years.
From 1 September 2021, callers to the Civil Legal Advice (CLA) helpline with family issues are no longer referred to specialist telephone advice. In July to September 2022, family legal help starts are down by 20% compared to the same quarter last year. Completed claims also decreased by 6% and expenditure decreased by 7%.
Family mediation involves an independent and impartial professionally-accredited mediator discussing problems with a divorcing or separating couple. A Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAMs) is an initial meeting between one or both parties and a mediator to see if family mediation could be used to reach agreement without using the courts.
MIAMs, family mediation starts, and outcomes decreased significantly following the covid-19 restrictions in March 2020. Since then, volumes and expenditure have rapidly increased to levels temporarily exceeding pre-covid figures. However, in the last quarter, MIAMs decreased by 7% compared to the previous year and currently stand at around a third of pre-LASPO levels. Family mediation starts increased by 5% while total outcomes decreased by 10%, of which 59% were successful agreements, and are now sitting at around half of pre-LASPO levels.
(see interactive breakdown for mediation)
Controlled legal representation relates to representation at tribunal, but unlike civil representation, the decision on whether to grant legal aid is delegated to providers.
Legal help and controlled legal representation make up over 95% of both immigration and mental health legal aid cases.
The LASPO Act 2012 made changes to the scope of legal aid for immigration law, but some areas remained in scope. Workload that remains in the immigration category consists largely of asylum-related work. Having fallen by over 45% in April to June 2020, new matter starts in immigration increased by 10% in July to September 2022 compared to the same quarter of the previous year. Completed claims in immigration were up by 24% in the last quarter compared to the previous year and expenditure also increased by 8%.
Within mental health, most funding is spent on providing assistance to sectioned clients appealing the terms of their detention before a mental health tribunal. Mental health new matter starts decreased by 2% when comparing the latest quarter to the previous year. Completed claims remained unchanged compared to the same quarter of the previous year and expenditure decreased by 1% over the same period.
Over 80% of legal aid housing work volume is made up of legal help. The volume of legally-aided housing work halved between July to September 2012 and July to September 2013. The trend then fluctuated for around 18 months but since 2014 it has been falling. Housing legal aid was particularly affected by covid-19 with starts and completed claims nearly halving again between January to March 2020 and April to June 2020. In July to September 2022 there was a 3% increase in housing work starts compared to the same quarter the previous year. However, there was a decrease in completed claims (3%) and a larger decrease in expenditure (28%).
The number of civil representation certificates granted in the last quarter remained unchanged compared to the same period of the previous year. The number of certificates completed increased by 6%, and the associated expenditure increased by 24% over the same period. At a cost of around £201m in July to September 2022, total civil representation expenditure is the highest it has been since 2013-14.
(see interactive breakdown here)
(see interactive breakdown here)
Non-family certificates completed make up 11% of the total civil representation workload and 8% of the expenditure. There are only a small number of immigration and mental health cases in civil representation as most work in these areas consists of controlled legal representation. A large proportion of certificates completed in this category are for housing work. There has been a gradual decline in housing certificates completed and expenditure since 2014. However, in the latest period, completed certificates increased by 8% compared to the same period of the previous year.
While civil representation for public family law remains available, the LASPO Act removed legal aid for most private family law including issues such as contact or divorce. However, legal aid remains available for such cases where there is a risk of domestic violence or child abuse. Certificates granted for family work decreased by 1% in July to September 2022 compared to the previous year. Whereas, certificates completed increased by 5% and associated expenditure has increased by 24% compared to the same quarter the previous year.
The volume and expenditure for closed case domestic violence civil representation increased substantially following the initial impacts of covid-19. In July to September 2022, certificates completed for domestic violence remained unchanged compared to the same period of the previous year.
In July to September 2022, applications for civil representation supported by evidence of domestic violence or child abuse decreased by 7% compared to the same period of the previous year. The number of certificates granted via the domestic violence and child abuse gateway decreased by 14% over the same period. The proportion of applications granted remained steady at around 70% from the inception of this type of application until the end of 2015, before increasing to around 80%. The provisional figure for the latest quarter is 83%.
(see interactive breakdown here)
Of all civil representation applications granted, 722 in the last quarter related to a judicial review . The number granted in July to September 2022 increased by 25% compared with the same quarter in 2021. Over half of judicial reviews were for public law. Judicial review data is available in the detailed csv accompanying this bulletin.
The Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) scheme was introduced as part of LASPO. An ECF application for civil legal services is made where a case falls outside the scope of civil legal aid but the client or conducting solicitor believes failure to provide funding would be a breach of the Human Rights Act 1998
There were 851 applications for ECF received from July to September 2022. This is a 14% decrease from the same quarter last year. 777 (91%) of these were new applications.
Of the 851 ECF applications received between July and September 2022, 95% (812) had been determined by the LAA as of 01 December 2022. 71% (580) of these were granted, 17% (140) were refused and 9% (72) rejected (see figure 11).
(see interactive breakdown here)
Among the ECF applications received between July and September 2022, immigration (67%), inquest (12%), and family (10%) remained the most requested categories of law. The increase in ECF applications over the last four years is driven by an increase in immigration applications.
(see interactive breakdown here)
This publication presents quarterly data trends. For more detailed commentary, and statistics on providers of legal aid, Central Funds and diversity in legal aid, please refer to the annual publication.
Our statisticians regularly review the content of publications. Development of new and improved statistical outputs is usually dependent on reallocating existing resources. As part of our continual review and prioritisation, we welcome user feedback on existing outputs including content, breadth, frequency and methodology. Please send any comments you have on this publication including suggestions for further developments or reduction in content.
National Statistics status means that official statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value. All official statistics should comply with all aspects of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.
They are awarded National Statistics status following an assessment by the Authority’s regulatory arm. The Authority considers whether the statistics meet the highest standards of Code compliance, including the value they add to public decisions and debate.
It is the Ministry of Justice’s responsibility to maintain compliance with the standards expected for National Statistics. If we become concerned about whether these statistics are still meeting the appropriate standards, we will discuss any concerns with the Authority promptly. National Statistics status can be removed at any point when the highest standards are not maintained, and reinstated when standards are restored.
Press enquiries should be directed to the Ministry of Justice press office:
Tel: 020 3334 3536
Other enquiries about these statistics should be directed to the Justice Statistics Analytical Services division of the Ministry of Justice:
Carly Gray,
Ministry of Justice
Tel: 07784 275495
A set of Tables, which give further detail and full time-series for each scheme and interactive versions can be found for Crime and Civil.
An ods spreadsheet download for all ‘Tables’, which provide full time-series for each scheme.
Also an accessible version of ods spreadsheet download for all ‘Tables’, which also provide full time-series for each scheme.
Main data and Civil detailed data: Detailed files to enable independent analysis, provided in .csv (Comma delimited) format.
User Guide to legal aid statistics: This provides comprehensive information about data sources as well as key legislative changes.
Index of data in Legal aid statistics: A guide to the data published in the .ods files, lists of available data from Legal Aid systems and guidance on how to work with the data.
Quality Statement: This provides detail on how legal aid statistics meet user needs
Next update: 30 March 2023
© Crown copyright Produced by the Ministry of Justice
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