Am I eligible for Legal Aid?

16 May 2012

Eligibility for Legal Aid depends on a number of factors including the nature and merit of your legal case, and your financial eligibility.

The question as to whether someone is eligible for legal aid is a surprisingly difficult question to answer.  Whether you are eligible for Legal Aid or not can depend on a number of factors including the nature and merit of your legal case and your financial eligibility.  

If you are in receipt of what is known as a ‘passport benefit’ such as Income Support, Income Based Employment Support Allowance, or Guarantee State Pension Credit, you will generally be entitled to free Legal Aid. You may also be eligible if your household disposable income is modest, but will often be asked to pay a (sometimes fairly hefty!) contribution towards the cost of your Legal Representation.  There are also limits on the amount of Capital you may hold before you are no longer eligible.

If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself being questioned at a Police Station, you may be comforted to know that your Legal Representation will be free under the Legal Aid PACE scheme.  Legal Aid for the costs of Defending Criminal Charges is available upon application to the presiding Magistrate. There are also matters for which there is no legal aid available such as Libel, Slander, Defamation, Small Claims and representation at Employment Tribunals.

If you are not eligible for Legal Aid, there are alternative methods of funding Legal Representation.  You may already hold Legal Expenses Insurance as part of your Home Buildings or Contents Policy or as part of any Professional Indemnity Insurance you hold.  It is also possible to obtain ‘After the Event’ Insurance for a particular matter or case.  

In conclusion, you should not let concerns about Legal Aid prevent you from seeking prompt Legal Advice.  Worthingtons offers free initial advice about any matter and will advise fully with regard to the availability of Legal Aid for your case and any alternative methods of funding if appropriate.

Nikki McConnell is a Partner with Worthingtons Solicitors and is head of the Litigation team in our Newtownards office.

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