Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Cost Drivers

I defend people who are accused of, and who have defrauded the benefits system. Most of the cases are simply that a single mother has been on benefits and needed more money due to debts, they work for a number of weeks without declaring the extra income, and a year later they are investigated. Many of these cases are swiftly dealt with as a guilty plea because the evidence is usually overwhelming.

When a case is prosecuted by the Department for Work and Pensions they usually instruct Counsel. Counsel attends at Court and is usually assisted by the investigating officer from the DWP who also attends at Court. Recently I have noticed that the investigating officers have been attending in pairs. The DWP only usually ask for £75 in costs to cover their legal fees when someone pleads guilty.

Most cases involving prosecutions are farmed out to Counsel who are paid £100 to deal with the case from start to finish in the Magistrates Court if it is a guilty plea. I am sure that they get paid more for a trial. This fee in itself represents good value for money. What I do nounderstandbd is why does the DWP not come up with a policy where they ask for £100 for costs? That would then mean in some cases they recoup their money spent on instructing Counsel.

The instruction of Counsel seems to be a waste of time. Most of the time they simply read the half a page of typed A4 paper that is the case summary. If aquestionsoks arise that are not contained within this half a sheet of A4 paper they ask the investigating officer, who sometimes turns to his colleague and asks the same question!

I have an idea on how to save money. Pay Counsel more money to deal with the hearing, they will then think it is fair and reasonable to actually read the papers. If the investigating officer is not sent along Counsel will then have to read the papers. The investigating officer is quite clearsuperfluousous if Counsel has been instructed properly.

If most CPS cases are dealt with in this way where the investigating officer is not required until the day of trial why should DWP cases be different?

1 comment:

Bystander said...

I saw such a case today. An emotional lady who had been denied legal aid pleaded guilty, but we were not happy since we detected potentially equivocal pleas, so we put it back for a week or two.

To deny legal aid topeople this fragile is cruel and un-productive.