This application is subject to two tests, the first is the interests of justice test, this will assess whether or not your case is “serious enough” for legal aid to be granted for representation. The second test is a means test, which assesses your means after considering your income and expenditure.
If you are in receipt of Income Support, Employment Support Allowance, Guaranteed State Pension Credit, or Income-based Job Seekers Allowance, you will automatically be entitled to legal aid. You will need to provide your national insurance number (and your partner’s) to confirm that you are in receipt of the benefit. If you are under 18 years of age, you will automatically be entitled to legal aid, covering the costs of representation.
If you are in receipt of a different type of benefit (for example Universal Credit), you may be entitled to legal aid with proof of that benefit.
Should you not be in receipt of any benefits, your legal aid application will be means tested to see if you are financially eligible. If your household income is £11,590 or below, you will be entitled to legal aid in the magistrates court. If your household income is over £21,000 you will not be financially eligible for legal aid in the magistrates court.
If your household income is between these figures, your financial eligibility will be assessed to consider your disposable income. You may still be entitled to legal aid in these circumstances.
To assist us making the application for legal aid in these circumstances, the LAA will require documentary evidence of your income; this includes 3 months bank statements prior to the date of the application, and wage slips covering the same period. If you are self-employed then you will be required to provide the LAA with a copy of your last tax return and/or annual accounts.
In the magistrates court you are either entitled to legal aid or you not. If not, we can discuss our private client rates for representation at court. See our website for more details.
If your case is heard in the crown court, you will be automatically entitled to legal aid after making the application. You will be means tested in the same way as in the magistrates court and may have to pay a contribution towards the costs of your defence, either from your income or capital, if you are convicted in the crown court. If you are automatically entitled to legal aid due to the type of benefit that you receive, as stated above, or you are under 18 years of age, you will not have to pay a contribution to the cost of your defence in the crown court.
If you are convicted you may be required to pay a contribution to the prosecution costs of bringing the case to court in all circumstances.
If you would like to discuss how legal aid is applied in the magistrates and/or crown court, please contact our crime department on 01752 660384.
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