Can I get legal aid?
The regulations relating to Legal Aid are now more complex than before.
For all cases, it has to be in the interests of justice that you are legally represented.
Furthermore Legal Aid is now means tested, both for Magistrates Court cases and Crown Court cases.
We will help you to complete your application for legal aid and we will advise you about any supporting documentation that we require in order to complete your application.
The Legal Aid Agency will assess your financial situation and decide whether you are entitled to Legal Representation and, in respect of Crown Court cases, whether you must make a contribution to your legal aid.
To qualify for a Representation Order in the Magistrates' court, you must meet certain financial conditions. You'll automatically meet these conditions if you are under 18 or if you are in receipt of certain benefits. Otherwise, the financial conditions depend on your gross income and how many dependent children you have. If you do meet the financial conditions, you will usually get help with representation in a criminal case in the Magistrates' Court, as long as it's in the interests of justice that you are legally represented.
If you are not financially eligible, then we will be happy to discuss representing you on a private basis.
In the Crown Court, it will automatically be in the interests of justice that you are legally represented but you will still have to meet certain financial conditions.
If you and/or your partner are working and/or have other savings and capital assets then you might have to contribute towards the cost of your legal representation. We do not have any control over the level of any contributions that you are required to make as this is determined by the Legal Aid Agency based upon the information that you provide.
If you are required to make a contribution but are found not guilty, your payments will usually be refunded to you.
If you are convicted then the Legal Aid Agency also has the power to recover any additional costs.
If you are thinking of pleading Guilty then it may in fact be more advantageous to instruct us on a private basis as it may be possible for us to represent you at less cost than any contribution order and without the risk of the Legal Aid Agency being able to recover any additional sums.
If however you are intending on pleading Not Guilty then, in the event of you being acquitted, the Crown Court no longer has the power to award you a refund of your costs.
It can be a difficult decision to decide whether to apply for Legal Aid or instruct us on a private basis. We will be very happy to discuss your options with you before you make that decision.