Whilst all of our clients will know that we do not provide Legal Aid, we have been asked by a number of people what it entails and whether they have a right to it. We hope this note will give some background information and some idea about the use of Legal Aid.
Do we do Legal Aid?
No. All of our clients are privately funded, and the areas we work in are very often areas that do not have Legal Aid available to them.
What is Legal Aid?
Legal Aid is financial support offered by the government to those whose circumstances prevents them from otherwise affording their own legal costs. It attempts to make sure everyone has the right to counsel and the right to a fair trial before the law.
Who can apply for Legal Aid?
Those who apply for Legal Aid are usually in a place of desperation, at risk of abuse or serious harm such as domestic violence or in an arranged marriage. Others can be facing the risk of losing their home or even deported.
Other common requests for Legal Aid are from those who have been accused of a crime, face prison time or experiencing discrimination.
Can I apply for Legal Aid?
Yes. Everyone is entitled to apply for Legal Aid though not every applicant is successful. Each applicant will be assessed primarily on the strength of their case and their financial position. For civil cases, your lawyer will usually apply for Legal Aid on your behalf though you may be required to show you cannot afford to pay the fees yourself.
You can also apply for Legal Aid abroad in any European country (excluding Croatia and Romania), Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Is Legal Aid free?
Not always. Depending on your financial circumstances you may be required to pay a portion of your legal costs yourself, or should you win money or property out of a settlement, be asked to pay costs back at a later date. As stated above, it all depends on the strength of your case and your financial background.
Once you or your legal advisor has applied for Legal Aid, and you qualify, the government will pay your legal costs directly.
What you can get with Legal Aid
Once your application for Legal Aid has been approved, you can receive advice on your rights and options, help with paperwork and negotiations and a solicitor or barrister to speak on your behalf in court or some tribunals.
Though Legal Aid can be a great help to those who are in urgent need, the qualifying process can be incredibly strict and will require firm evidence of your financial and personal circumstances. Anyone thinking of applying for Legal Aid should definitely consult with a legal advisor before doing so.