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We are proud to have been awarded a Legal Aid contract. Below we give an overview of the current rules relating to Legal Aid - there are often changes so please contact us for further advice or check the Legal Aid Agency guidance.
If you are going to be interviewed by the police under caution you are entitled to FREE legal advice. This applies whether you are under arrest or have attended the police station by appointment as a volunteer. Some people think that if they have done nothing wrong they don’t need legal advice – this is wrong – you do and it is FREE. In some circumstances we are able to challenge pre-charge bail decisions and can apply for funding to do this.
The availability of Legal Aid depends on whether your case is going to be dealt with by the Magistrates Court or is progressing to the Crown Court. Most cases are dealt with solely by the Magistrates Court. If your case is one of these Legal Aid is available but is subject to a merits and a means test. The merits test is to see whether it is in the “interests of justice” for you to be granted funding. The kinds of cases that are not usually deemed serious enough are low reading drink driving; being drunk and disorderly; and minor public order cases. In some cases even very low level offences may be deemed suitable for legal aid so please let us advise you about this. The second test is a means test. This is not applicable to under 18s. If you are in receipt of certain benefits you are automatically entitled to legal aid and we only require your national insurance number to confirm this. These benefits are income based JSA, income support or a guaranteed pension. Other benefits such as universal credit or working tax credit will require you to provide documentation for assessment. Those defendants working will be required to provide more documentation for a full means assessment – if you are single and earn below £11,590 than you will be entitled to funding and if you earned above that but below £20,750 it will depend on your outgoings. Your partner’s earnings and outgoings are included in the assessment in most cases. Unlike the Crown Court there is no contribution system – either you qualify or you do not.
If you do not qualify for legal aid and your case is not a very minor matter then you can be represented by a court Duty Solicitor on one occasion. We are able to represent you on a private basis – please check our costs page. It is also possible that you are able to obtain funding from your Trade Union or household insurance. If you are acquitted you may be entitled to have some of your private costs repaid if you apply for a Defence Costs Order (sums are limited to legal aid rates).
If your case goes to the Crown Court you will be entitled to Legal Aid but may have to pay a contribution towards defence costs unless your disposable income is above £37,500. You will have to complete a means test. If you are under 18 or on passported benefits there will be no contribution. The Legal Aid Agency will write to you and inform you of the amount you have to pay. You must inform them of any change in circumstances during your case. At the end of the case if you are found guilty there may be an order for you to pay defence costs out of assets that you have. If you are found not guilty the contributions that you have paid should be refunded with some interest. If you have had to pay for representation on acquittal you should apply for a Defence Costs Order which should enable some of your costs to be reimbursed (but limited to Legal Aid rates) – you will have to have been refused Legal Aid in order to qualify.
You may be entitled to funding for your solicitor or your barrister to advise you on appeal. If you wish to take a case to the Court of Appeal we can advise you further about funding. If you were represented by another solicitor and wish us to review your case we can apply for limited funding to do this. Please contact us for advice.
Tildens is a trading name of Tildens Ltd. | Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. SRA NO: 633830 | Terms and Conditions
Director: Sarah Smith. Registered in England and Wales | Company Number: 10334130 Registered Office: 95, Ditchling Road, Brighton, BN1 4ST