R v Legal Aid Area No.1 (London) Appeal Committee, Ex Parte McCormick (2000)


The Legal Aid Board's appeal committee had failed to identify reasons for the revocation of the applicant's legal aid certificate. Therefore its decision was quashed on judicial review and the case remitted for rehearing.


The applicant ('X') challenged by way of judicial review a decision by the appeal committee of the respondent Legal Aid Board ('the Board'), whereby it revoked the grant of legal aid to X. X had been granted legal aid in four civil actions including an application by the Secretary of State that he be disqualified as a company director, and a prosecution for insider dealing. All four proceedings had ended by the time of the present case. Between 28 February and 24 July 1996 X made four applications for legal aid. By that stage he had exhausted his own resources and borrowed £125,000 towards his legal costs. In late 1996 X borrowed £7,500 from a bank, which he used to repay the entirety of a £2,500 loan he had taken from his daughter and to repay £5,000 towards another loan, which had been for £5,514. X passed information about this loan to his solicitor in the belief that if it affected legal aid his solicitor would inform the Board. In February 1998 X was investigated as to his eligibility for legal aid. X voluntarily disclosed the bank loan. Consequently the Board revoked his legal aid certificate, pursuant to reg.78 Civil Legal Aid (General) Regulations 1989 SI 1989/339, and his appeal from that revocation was unsuccessful because the appeal committee concluded that X had failed to disclose a material fact. The appeal committee further found that X had not acted with due care and diligence. The revocation's effect was to render X liable for the entire cost of his cases, which would bankrupt him. X submitted in his application that: the appeal committee erred in law by concluding that the loan was a material fact because X had simply converted two creditors into one big creditor and one small one; the appeal committee wrongly approached the question of whether revocation was the appropriate sanction; and that the appeal committee's decision was Wednesbury unreasonable.


(1) The duty to inform the Board of a change in circumstances arose whenever a recipient of legal aid had reason to think that the change might affect either the continuation of his certificate or the terms on which it would be continued. The Board could not impose a wider obligation upon the recipients of legal aid, as it had attempted to do in its documentation, than that. (2) X had reason to believe that the bank loan might affect his legal aid position. Additionally, objectively speaking, X had reason to disclose the loan to the Board. (3) The appeal committee should have addressed itself to the degree of X's culpability, when it considered the appropriate sanction. The appeal committee had not identified any factors which drove it to revoke X's legal aid certificate. If the committee had accepted X's explanation for the non-disclosure, or were prepared to assume in his favour that it was true, then it should have weighed those features on which X relied against their reason for treating the non-disclosure as being sufficiently serious to impose revocation. That was not done. For those reasons, the application was allowed: the appeal committee's decision was quashed and the case remitted to them for reconsideration.

Application allowed. Decision of the Legal Aid Board appeal committee quashed. Matter remitted for reconsideration.