Legal Aid Agency special investigations
Legal aid providers: guidance on when and how the SIU investigate client eligibility, eg complex cases, high profile defendants and fraud.
If your client has complex financial circumstances, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) Special Investigations Unit (SIU) will look into it.
The unit investigates civil and criminal applications for legal aid and deals directly with LAA local offices and other government departments to review client eligibility.
LAA local offices refer cases to the SIU for investigation, either on application or at any time when a funding certificate is in force, following SIU referral criteria.
The SIU need to accept a case before they investigate. Then investigators collect evidence to accurately establish a client’s financial circumstances and decide to either grant or refuse legal aid, or request a contribution from the client.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service (through the Crown Courts and criminal appeal office) or the National Courts Team (NCT) refer applications for criminal legal aid to the SIU for review.
Reasons for investigation
You’re likely to be investigated if your client:
- is a high profile defendant
- is an alleged terrorist defendant
- is a defendant who holds assets abroad
You’re also likely to be investigated if you provide legal aid services in:
- complex business cases
- high cost cases contracted with the LAA
What happens next
SIU investigates the case and prepares a report to send to the presiding judge at the court of appeal. The unit will report directly to the LAA NCT team for Crown Court Means Testing (CCMT) or magistrates’ cases.
The judge may order the defendant to repay some or all of their defence costs, or your client may be asked to pay a contribution under CCMT.
The SIU also offers assurance on high profile cases that no assets have been undisclosed.
SIU works in partnership with other government agencies - most commonly Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - to investigate representations against legal aid entitlement where fraud is alleged.
They work jointly with counterparts in 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 to qualify for legal aid.)
Counter Fraud Team
The Counter Fraud Team is part of the LAA SIU. They’re responsible for investigating allegations of fraud by providers (solicitors, third party experts and barristers).
Special Investigations Unit
Legal Aid Agency
6.50 - 102 Petty France
Email (SIU): firstname.lastname@example.org
Email (Counter Fraud Team): email@example.com
Phone (SIU): +44(0)203 334 5588
Published: 2 July 2014
From: Legal Aid Agency