Legal Aid is a source of Government funding available to people who otherwise would not be able to afford legal advice or a Solicitor to represent them in Court.
LEGAL AID – MAGISTRATES COURT
The Government has re-introduced means testing for Legal Aid cases before the Magistrates Court.
We will advise you whether you are eligible for Legal Aid and assist you in completing and submitting the relevant application forms, together with supporting documents to the Magistrates Court.
It is important that the appropriate Legal Aid application forms are completed in advance of the first Hearing so that they can be processed by the Court staff. In order to assist us in completing the application forms, you will need to provide us with documentary proof of your income and outgoings.
If you are in receipt of “Income Support” or “Job Seekers Allowance”, you will automatically pass the Means Test.
Magistrates Court staff usually process Legal Aid applications within three days of receipt of fully completed forms and Court staff will post their decision directly to the applicant, who should allow two working days to receive it.
To receive Legal Aid, an applicant must pass two tests:-
- The Interests of Justice Test This determines whether an applicant is eligible for Legal Aid based on the merits of their case.
- The Means Test This test establishes whether an applicant is financially eligible for Legal Aid, considering income and expenses. Capital is not included.
Legal Aid will not be granted to an applicant if they fail either of these tests.
- An appeal process is available where the applicant is refused Legal Aid as a result of failing the Interests of Justice test.
- If an applicant is refused Legal Aid as a result of failing the Means Test, the applicant may apply for a review on the grounds of hardship.
Legal Aid - Crown Court
In relation to matters that are deal with before a Crown Court, all applicants will automatically be entitled to the grant of Legal Aid without Means Testing, provided it is in the interests of justice that they are legally represented.
The Crown Court will require you to complete a form regarding your income and resources and that form will need to be submitted to the Crown Court on your behalf as soon as possible. It is important that you provide this information since failure to do so may result in an Order being made by a Judge that the full costs of your defence are to be paid by you if you are found “guilty”.
It is important that you tell the Court Office if your financial circumstances change during the case. You can ask for an estimate of your costs at any time but should remember that this is a maximum that you may have to pay and the Court may decide not to make any Order at all. We should be happy to discuss all these matters with you if you have any queries.
We are obliged to advise you that at the end of the case and normally only in the event that you are found “guilty”, the Crown Court may make a Recovery of Defence Costs Order, requiring you to pay a contribution towards the costs of your defence including the costs of the earlier proceedings in the Magistrates Court.
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