Rise in ‘between the parties’ assessments reaching the SCCO

Costs: legal aid assessments fell in 2011

The number of ‘between the parties’ assessments reaching the Senior Court Costs Office (SCCO) rose by 14% last year, new figures show.

The annual report of judicial and court statistics from the Ministry of Justice show that overall the SCCO’s workload stayed static in 2011, due to a fall in the number of legal aid assessments.

In all the SCCO dealt with 11,561 cases in 2011, just 18 fewer than in the year before.

There were 2,031 ‘between the parties’ assessments last year, up from 1,788 and the highest for four years.

The report said: “This reflects the levelling out of the predictable costs in road traffic cases, the reduction in technical challenges to conditional fee agreements and fixed success fees.”

The number of civil legal aid assessments fell by 198 to 4,344, while appeals against determination of costs in the Crown Court dropped from 289 to just 206.

The report explained: “It is likely that this drop results from the introduction of standard fees in section 31 public law care proceedings. Following the marked increase in appeals from Crown Court determining officers in 2007, these have now returned to levels regularly seen in previous years.”

The other element of the SCCO’s work – receivers’ costs in the Court of Protection – saw a slight rise to 4,980 cases.

The report showed that the average cost of applications for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was £4,798, while the assessed costs bills of 17 cases that reached the court were worth in all £985,854, or £57,991 each.