Do you qualify for Legal Aid?
Legal Aid at the Police Station
Anybody in the Police Station who may be interviewed by the Police under caution may have been arrested are always, as a result of this, a person will not incur any financial costs in relation to any advice and assistance given to them at a Police Station in relation to criminal investigation. In certain circumstances somebody could be interviewed about offences which are relatively minor. In this instance, the advice could be limited, only to being advised on the telephone.
What happens between the Police Station and the Court?
It is increasingly more common that the Police, after interviewing somebody, may either charge them or bail them pending further enquiries. If further enquiries are undertaken then it is likely that a person can be placed on police bail for a significant period of time, depending on how detailed the investigation is. The Police consider placing a person on bail conditionally or unconditionally whilst these enquiries take place.
During this time, any work that we need to do your behalf will not be covered by the Police Station Advice and Assistance. However, there are other way that you may be eligible, privately funded advice and assistance. The availability of any particular type of legal representative depends ultimately on your means and/or your financial position.
What happens in the Magistrates Court?
In order to be eligible for a Representation Order, commonly known as Legal Aid, an Application has to be made in writing to the Court. We will of course help you in every way to deal with this if you require assistance.
For you to need a full legal representation. You may need us to represent you at the Magistrates Court and/or the Crown Court if you are eventually charged with the offence for which you are originally arrested. We can prepare your defence before you go to Court and speak on your behalf during a trial.
The Court falls into two categories:
1. The case meets the interest of justice test
2. Your case passes the means test which looks into your financial situation.
In relation to the Interest of Justice test, the Court will have to consider whether your case is serious enough for you to need full representation. Most cases where an offence is non-, therefore you will fail the first test. These offences include the following:
1. Driving document offences.
2. Minor Public Order Act Offences.
3. Being Drunk and Disorderly.
However, even one of these types of offences there is an exception to every rule, so you should check with us to see if your case is sufficiently complex to justify making an application.
If you are charged with an Indictable only offence (an offence which can only be heard in the Crown Court), your case will almost always pass this first test. There may be many offences which clearly fall somewhere between two categories and we are happy to advise you on an individual basis as to whether or not you are likely to be successful in passing the first test.
Second test – this is a means test. Legal Aid will not be granted if you are earning too much money according to the Legal Aid Agency calculators. We will be more than happy to assist you in relation to this.
You will automatically qualify for Legal Aid if you either:
(a) Get Income Support, Income based Job Seekers Allowance, or a guaranteed State Pension Credit.
(b) Are under the age of 16 years of age (or under 18 years at the time and/or in full time education).
You will need to provide us with an application, you and your partner’s details where appropriate, including name, address, date of birth and national insurance number.
If you are in receipt of other benefits then you will not automatically be entitled for Legal Aid. You will have to provide the Court with documentary evidence of this benefit.
If you (and/or your partner) receive any income other than benefits, then your application will be subject to a full means test.
If you case is being heard in the Magistrates Court, you may not automatically pass the means test, but you might still qualify for Legal Aid at the Magistrates Court if:
1. Your income is less than £12475
2. Your annual income is between £12475-£22325 but your monthly spare income is less than £283 per month.
3. Spare income is the amount of income that you have left over after your essential bills are paid.
4. If your spare income is more than £283 per month you will have to pay your own legal bill.
In all cases where you receive an income you will have to provide documentary proof of that income. If you are employed this will be in the form of Wage Slips for the last 3 months.
If you are self-employed then you need to provide the Court with a copy of your Tax Return and/or Annual Accounts.
In the circumstances where you or your Partner are earning an income, the new regulations, financial allowances are complex. You have to discuss the eligibility and what documents you will need to provide us to provide to the Court. Feel free to contact us for more information.
If you are co-habiting or married then the means testing will include both you and your partner’s income and the forms that will have to be signed by both of you. There is no contribution system in the Magistrates Court Legal Aid, you are either financially eligible and you will receive a full representation order or you will not. If you are not eligible for Legal Aid then we are happy to discuss private rates for representing you.
If your application for Legal Aid is refused you can appeal this decision. You may also be able to reapply if your circumstances were to change after an unsuccessful application.