Legal Aid is a service provided to low-income earners who are facing legal charges. The charges can be either criminal or civil proceedings as long as they are of a severe nature.
But what happens if you’re not satisfied with the service provided to you by the Legal Aid Agency?
Filing a Complaint
When you file a complaint against the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), you should receive a response within 20 business days of receiving the complaint (if you have followed the complaints procedure, see below).
It is essential to know that LLA only responds to complaints regarding their processes or the conduct of staff during your case. They won’t respond to any complaints regarding Solicitors or any other department or civil service agency.
Filing a complaint against LLA is a two-stage process:
When you file a complaint with the Legal Aid Agency, you need to include 4 key pieces of information:
- Legal Aid reference number of your case (if you have one)
- Your Surname (at your time of birth)
- Your national insurance number (if you do not have the reference number)
- Your best contact details so the Legal Aid is able to respond to your complaint.
You will then need to outline your complaint. Make sure you give as many details as you can to ensure your complaint is handled in a timely fashion. Ensure your explanation includes details of what the agency did wrong during your case and how you actually like them to rectify the issue.
Stage two comes into effect if you’re not happy with the Legal Aid Agency’s initial response to your correspondence. To file a stage two complaint, you need to include the following details:
- An explanation as to why you’re not happy with the primary outcome of your complaint
- Suggest the outcome that you believe should be applied to rectify your complaint
- Provide further information as requested or any additional information you have that supports your unresolved issue
If you’re still unhappy with the response provided, you can write to your local MP and ask them for referring your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
The full complaints procedure can be read here.
When submitting your complaint, it is best to use the official complaints form. You can find the complaint form via the above link to the complaints procedure page.
When Can You File A Complaint?
As outlined above, if you’re dissatisfied with the LAA, you are able to file an official complaint. However, there are a few exceptions that require you to take a different course of action. That does not mean you cannot provide feedback or that you cannot voice your concerns to the organisation. Instead, the exceptions to the complaints procedure are handled through appeals proceedings. These exceptions include:
- Expressing dissatisfaction or challenging the refusal of applications for funding, to embargo or cancellation of funding (including any decisions made by IOJ)
- Challenging the assessment of costs after submitting a claim payment
- Challenging a decision to apply statutory charges to your case
- Challenging the outcome of the agency’s assessment of financial eligibility for the service
- Challenging or expressing dissatisfaction with the decision to reject a billing item. You can challenge the rejection of billing items or raise a query (instead of filing a complaint) with the Civil Claim Fix Service. The Civil Claim Fix Service aims to process queries in 24 hours.
- Allegations of fraud in respect to granting Legal Aid to any individual. These complaints should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you decide to pursue one of the above issues, ensure you include as many details as possible. If possible, please include:
- Date of Birth
- Certificate reference number
If you are seeking compensation, email: LAAcomplaints@justice.gov.uk
Note: LLA only makes compensation payments in cases of maladministration. Maladministration means that LLA made a material error or an omission that resulted in financial loss. Evidence is required to prove monetary loss. Compensation claims should receive a response within 20 days.
Should You File A Complaint?
Submitting a complaint against an organisation practising law can feel like a daunting task. However, you shouldn’t let that stop you from filing a complaint if you have not received the level of service promised to you. Just remember, losing a case does not mean the LAA did not do their job correctly and does not necessitate a complaint against your Legal Aid worker.