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What is Legal Aid, and how does it work?

Here in the UK, you have the right to free legal advice if you're arrested or questioned at a police station. You are not, however, automatically entitled to Legal Aid, as eligibility is determined on your type of case and your financial circumstances.

Defining Legal Aid

Legal Aid is designed to help eligible people meet the costs of legal advice, family mediation and representation in a court or tribunal. That said, Legal Aid might not necessarily cover all the costs of your case, and you may be required to pay some of the costs upfront or pay back some of the costs if you win money or property from your case. If you have been arrested or charged with an offence, it is critical to acquire professional legal advice at the earliest opportunity. Your solicitors can then obtain all relevant information and determine whether your case is strong enough for Legal Aid to be granted.

Even if your case is eligible, you also need to show that your "problem is serious" and that you are unable to afford legal costs. As an example, you may potentially be eligible for Legal Aid if you require family mediation, or if your family are at risk or serious harm, such as domestic violence. You may also be approved for Legal Aid if you're at risk of losing your home and becoming homeless.

Making an application: The two tests

To claim Legal Aid, you must make an application to the Magistrate's Court. Two tests must be passed:

Interests of Justice (IoJ) Test

This test considers the merits of the case, such as:

  • A person's previous convictions
  • The nature of the offence in question
  • The risk of custody

The more serious the charge is, or the more serious a person's circumstances are, the more likely it is the individual's case will qualify Legal Aid. Crown Court trials automatically satisfy the IoJ test. Legal Aid is rarely approved for offences that do not carry imprisonment as a possible sentence.

Means Test

This is based on a person's financial circumstances, so it considers household income, outgoings, capital and equity. If you are claiming certain benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), income support or a guaranteed pension, you automatically pass this test and are eligible for Legal Aid. That said, if you and/or your partner receive an income (other than benefits) of over £21,000, you will not be qualified for Legal Aid. Also, if you're single with a gross annual income over £11,590, you will not be eligible.

Noble Solicitors can help you find out whether you're eligible. We can collate any relevant documentation on your behalf to support your case in acquiring Legal Aid, while dealing with your concerns in a confidential manner. We're available 24/7 across the UK, providing duty solicitors and free police station representation.

To discuss your circumstances with our team, please call 07000 81 82 83.

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