David Lewis-Hall, instructed by ODT Solicitors, successfully represented Mr S in an application to set aside a charging order in favour of Legal Aid Agency for criminal legal aid contribution. Following criminal proceedings in the Crown Court, Mr S had been made the subject of a Confiscation Order payable to HMCTS. Mr S was also required to make a contribution to the Legal Aid Agency for the costs of his representation.
In respect of the Confiscation Order, HMCTS had assessed Mr S’s interest in the family home as amounting to roughly £2000 as there was a valid deed of trust giving Mr S a 1% beneficial interest. Mr S’s partner duly paid the agreed sum to HMCTS, which was accepted by them as realising Mr S’s interest in the family home.
Despite this, the Legal Aid Agency applied to enforce the contribution in the County Court and were duly granted a charge over the family home (despite Mr S’s objections in writing).
Mr S applied to set aside the charge on the basis that his interest in the family home had been realised by the payment made to HMCTS and therefore there was no interest against which the Legal Aid Agency could maintain a charge.
The Judge granted the application on the basis that it was apparent that Mr S’s interest in the family home had been properly assessed by the Crown Court and then realised by the payment made in respect of the Confiscation Order.
This case demonstrates that the Legal Aid Agency cannot have a second bite of the cherry where another state body has accepted that the interest sought to be charged has been realised.