Friday 10 December 2010

Response to Scottish Legal Aid Board statement re bank charges

On Wednedsay 8 December 2010 the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) issued a formal statement in relation to GLC's case of Sharp v. Bank of Scotland and the generally availablity of civil legal aid for Scottish consumers to pursue claims for unfair bank charges.

SLAB alleged that "Following receipt, the application was considered but refused as it did not meet the reasonableness test for civil legal aid. No mention was made of wider public interest by Govan Law Centre at this time".  That assertion was false.  The statutory statement at page 19 of the application expressly stated the strong public interest in this case, on the following basis:

"Page 19:  Para 5. On the motion of the opponents these proceedings were remitted to the ordinary cause roll due to exceptional complexity. The applicant also seeks an order under the 1974 Act to prohibit any further charges being levied to her account in the future. Approximately 100,000 people in Scotland lodged complaints with their bank seeking a refund of overdraft charges, and therefore, there is a very strong public interest element to this case".

Before SLAB issued its original refusal of legal aid in this case on 12 October 2010, Dundas + Wilson, solicitors for the Bank of Scotland, lodged a 6 page letter of objections to SLAB on 27 August raising exceptionally complex and novel points of consumer credit law, issues around the UK Supreme Court's decision in OFT v. Abbey Nationals and others, and contentious issues around the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999, as well as complex issues of fact, in objection to the granting of civil legal aid in this case.

GLC responded to these points on 14 September 2010 with an equally complex and detailed letter.  The fact such novel points of law were at stake - from a Scottish and UK perspective - with such a massive public interest to at least 100,000 Scottish consumers (and by implication 900,000 consumers in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland), renders it extremely worrying that SLAB has chosen to falsely claim none of these issues were mentioned to them.

Separately, SLAB had claimed "GLC’s press release suggests that legal aid is unlikely to be obtained for certain cases. This is not accurate". We have just received another refusal of civil legal aid, this time in the case of Reid v. Clydesdale Bank plc, where SLAB once again rely on the 'cost/benefit test'.   GLC believes the that ridgid reliance on this test is unreasonable, irrational and unlawful for the reasons set out in our most recent letter to SLAB.

GLC's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly, said: "The Scottish Legal Aid Board's statement is fundamentally flawed and represents a failure to accept responsibility. It claims that GLC made 'no mention' of the wider public interest of the case when we lodged our client's application for legal aid. We believe, the Board's CEO should apologise for that false and unfair statement, and take responsibility for the self-evident failure to correctly apply the statutory tests in this case". 


1 comment:

  1. Agreed that there is a fundamental flaw of reasoning there:

    GovanLC: "there is a very strong public interest element to this case"

    SLAB: "No mention was made of wider public interest by Govan Law Centre at this time"

    It doesn't take a genius to work out a major gap in logic there.

    My own experience with updates in the comments sections are posted at the following sites. I do hope that reason prevails some day with the bank charges saga.

    Looking forward to more updates from GovanLC. Keep us posted.

    Gavin Ward