LSC travel cap
The basis for the LSC £40 cap for travel is contractual
The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has recently become very much more proactive in capping fees. Travel costs are a case in point.
The UK Register of Expert Witnesses has received a number of calls asking where the £40.00 per hour cap on travel time claims comes from. This cap is achieved through the contract the LSC has with the lawyers who undertake the publicly funded work.
For criminal work, para 5.51 of the LSC Crime Contract (dated February 2010) states:
Mileage and time travel for experts
5.51 Where you instruct an expert, we will not pay in excess of:
(a) 45 pence per mile travelling costs; and
(b) £40 per hour travelling time.
For civil work, the LSC Civil Contract (dated December 2009) states:
4.27 Where you instruct an expert:
(a) we will not pay in excess of 45 pence per mile travelling costs; and
(b) we will not pay in excess of £40 per hour travelling time.
These are the contractual terms by which the LSC binds lawyers to not contract to pay expert witnesses more than the limits set. Of course, for some larger forensic organisations, this cap will mean that experts are being charged out for less than it costs the firm to employ them!
One of the drivers behind the LSC’s cap seems to be to try to ensure that expert witnesses most local to the case are used. This would mean that the public is not paying to have expert witnesses travel the length of the country unnecessarily. And that’s a reasonable attitude to take. But, as usual, the LSC’s approach is too simple minded. As one of the experts listed in the UK Register of Expert Witnesses explains:
‘I understand the desire to use local experts, but unfortunately it is not quite so simple on the prosecution side these days. We have instructions from a Durham-based solicitor where Durham Constabulary submitted exhibits to FSS Wetherby but they were examined in FSS Huntingdon and reported by an FSS scientist in Birmingham. If the case goes to trial, it will be heard at a court in the North East.’
Justice would be more fairly done if only the bean counters at the LSC and the Ministry of Justice could be persuaded to put in place the means to gather information on what they are actually paying to experts, and then implement policies supported by the reality on the ground. Their one-size-fits-all approache based on nothing more than guesswork is plainly the wrong approach.