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Legal Aid In Criminal Law

In Criminal Law for a matter to qualify for Legal Aid you must satisfy both the Interest To Justice Test and Means Test.

Defendants with an income of £12,475 or less will always be granted Legal Aid in criminal cases. However, defendants with higher incomes will have to apply for Legal Aid.

The Legal Aid Means Test is one aspect of determining if someone qualifies for legal aid to cover some or all of their defence costs. It takes into account:

  • Income
  • Family circumstances, such as number of children
  • Essential living costs, such as mortgage or rent
  • Eligibility also depends on the type of case and where it’s heard

Applicants who fail the means test can apply for a review on the grounds of hardship. This will consider any expenditure that we have not yet taken into account, and the likely costs of the case.


Applicants will passport the means test to automatically get free legal aid if they’re under 18 or receive:

  • Income Support (IS)
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Universal Credit (UC)
  • State Pension Guarantee Credit
  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

The Legal Aid Interest To Justice Test considers the merits of the case – for example, a person’s previous convictions, the nature of the offence and the risk of custody – to determine if an applicant qualifies for legal aid. The more serious the charge or possible consequences for the client, the more likely that the case will qualify for legal aid (Crown Court trials are deemed to automatically satisfy this test).

The interests of justice test determines whether a client is entitled to legal aid based on merits.

  • It is likely that you will receive a prison sentence
  • It is likely that you will lose your livelihood
  • It is likely that you will suffer serious damage to your reputation
  • A substantial question of law is involved
  • You may not be able to understand the court proceedings or present your own case
  • Witnesses need to be traced and statements are taken from them (this may be relevant if you need an expert witness in your case)
  • It is in the interests of another person that you be represented (examples may include if the case is a domestic violence allegation)
  • This list is not exhaustive and you should always call us to discuss whether you are likely to be eligible for legal aid

Legal Aid In The Crown Court

If your case goes to the Crown Court for Trial you will automatically qualify for legally aid representation once you have completed an application form. Everyone is entitled to legal aid in the crown court unless your disposable household income is greater than £37,500 per annum. If your income exceeds £12,475, you will probably have to pay a contribution towards your legal aid. This contribution could be from your income whilst the case is ongoing and/or from your capital, if you are convicted.

If you do not qualify for Legal Aid your Solicitor will discuss with you the option of paying privately for the firm to represent you and your case. The Solicitor will give you a fair and realistic pricing option from the outset and where applicable quote you a fixed fee.

In Family Law the ability to gain Legal Aid funding has been restricted in recent years and we recommend you contact us to find out what you would be eligible for.

For further information please contact your nearest office or email