Guidance

Legal Aid Agency Counter Fraud and Special Investigations Unit

How to report suspected fraudulent activity to LAA and find out what action they can take.

Provider fraud

The Counter Fraud team are responsible for investigating allegations of fraud by solicitors, barristers and third party experts carrying out legal aid work.

LAA Counter Fraud works closely with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board in the delivery of their role.

To report suspected fraudulent activity you should e-mail the Counter Fraud Team allegations@legalaid.gsi.gov.uk.

Alternatively you can report your concerns anonymously by completing the ‘Reporting Fraud’ form.

Client investigations

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigate client eligibility for both civil and criminal legal aid. Cases are referred to us for a number of reasons in line with SIU ‘referral criteria’. This includes clients who:

  • hold assets abroad
  • have access to income or capital apparently owned by others
  • appear to lead a wealthy lifestyle
  • have business interests with complex finances
  • have other complex financial affairs
  • are pursuing or are the subject of a claim of significant financial value
  • appear to have rearranged their financial affairs in order to qualify for legal aid

If your client meets any of the above criteria it is likely that SIU will look into the matter further.

SIU deals with referrals made both at the time of application and once funding has been granted.

SIU also deals with several external bodies, such as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as well as other third parties in order to determine the financial eligibility of a client.

Civil investigations

LAA local regional offices may refer civil applications/funding certificates to SIU for further investigation if any of the above referral criteria apply.

Criminal investigations

The National Crime Team (NCT) may refer applications/representation orders for criminal legal aid made under the Crown Courts Means Testing (CCMT) scheme to SIU for review. This would be in line with the same referral criteria outlined above.

For matters heard in the Court of Appeal, the Criminal Appeal Office may refer matters to SIU for further investigation.

This may result in a judge ordering the defendant to repay some or all of their defence costs where there are assets available. This would be done through a Recovery of Defence Costs Order.

What happens next?

A referral has to be accepted by the SIU before we will investigate. The team will then collect evidence to accurately establish a client’s financial circumstances in order to decide to grant, refuse or remove legal aid, or to request a contribution from the client where it is appropriate to do so.

SIU also offers assurance on high profile cases that assets have not been left undisclosed and legal aid has been awarded correctly.

Fraud investigations

Allegations of potential fraud against LAA are looked into by SIU in accordance with the Fraud Act 2006. Work is carried out in partnership with other government agencies – most commonly the DWP – to investigate representations against legal aid entitlement where fraud is alleged.

SIU work in partnership with their counterparts in wider government or directly with the police to prepare evidence for the prosecution of fraud against LAA. This is termed ‘application fraud’, where clients intentionally fail to declare income or capital assets in order to qualify for legal aid.

Contact

Special Investigations Unit
Legal Aid Agency
8.37 - 102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

Email (SIU): specialinvestigations@legalaid.gsi.gov.uk

Phone (SIU): +44(0)203 334 5588

Published 2 July 2014