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Award-winning legal aid firm has 'only itself to blame' for losing matter starts

14 June 2011

Parker Rhodes Hickmotts, an award-winning legal aid firm in Rotherham, has “only itself to blame” for losing most of its immigration matter starts, a High Court judge has said.

The firm launched a judicial review after the LSC cut its workload from 750 asylum and 250 immigration matter starts to 212 asylum and 145 immigration matter starts in the latest tender round.

Amie Henshaw, head of immigration, won the immigration lawyer category at last year’s LALY awards in London.

Delivering judgment in Parker Rhodes Hickmotts v the LSC [2011] EWHC 1323 (Admin), Mr Justice McCombe said the case was a “sad” one but dismissed the firm’s application for judicial review.

“The claimant has only itself to blame for not taking the simple step of putting itself in the position of getting the additional point for a Level 3 accreditation application; it thereby lost out to others who took this simple precaution,” McCombe J said.

“Equally, it is to be regretted that a firm obviously well equipped to deliver immigration and asylum law services is not able to work up to its full potential.

“However, this is a consequence of the structure of the bidding process with which it is not the court’s place to interfere in the absence of illegality.”

The court heard that Henshall applied for Level 3 accreditation in July 2010 and received it in November 2010, but, because it was not received before the tender closed on 28 January last year, it could not be taken into account.

As a result, the firm did not qualify for the extra tender point that applying for Level 3 would have won.

McCombe J said that “contrary to Miss Henshall’s expectation, three applicants for contracts in the South Yorkshire access point” did make an application for Level 3 accreditation and won a total of 54 points in their assessments, compared with 53 for Parker Rhodes Hickmotts.

“The result was that the claimant’s three rivals obtained allocation of their full NMS [new matter start] bids whereas the claimant received a much scaled-down allocation.”

Henshall said the firm was surprised and disappointed by the judgment and would be lodging an application for permission to appeal later this week.

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