Legal Aid for Criminal Defence cases
At Geoff White Solicitors we represent clients on either a legal aid basis or on a privately funded basis when legal aid is not available.
Legal aid at the Police Station
If you are arrested you are always entitled to free legal advice at the police station. This free legal advice is available to everyone, regardless of your financial circumstances. We recommend that you say nothing to the Police until you have spoken directly with us.
We have a 24 hour emergency advice line so that we can respond immediately to your situation. Our 24 hour number is 07850 012 366.
Legal aid for representation at Court
You have the right to a fair trial and you should always obtain legal advice if you have been charged with a crime. Having representation by a specialist criminal defence solicitor will ensure that you have the best possible chance of a favourable outcome in Court.
Legal aid for representation at Court is based on a two-stage assessment. We will assess your circumstances and tell you whether you are entitled to legal aid for representation at Court.
You may be able to get legal aid to pay the solicitors’ or barristers’ costs if:
- your case meets the “Interests of Justice” test. You are likely to pass this test if you could:
- go to prison
- lose your job
- have your reputation damaged
- find it difficult to follow court proceedings because of language difficulties or mental illness
- you pass a ‘means test’ which looks at your financial situation
To find out if you can get legal aid to pay for this, you’ll need to give your solicitor or barrister:
- details of the type of case you are involved in
- information about your finances (like your income)
If you do not qualify for legal aid
Some people and types of cases may not qualify for legal aid funding. In these circumstances we will advise of the likely cost of representation at Court on a privately funding basis.
It is critical that you have effective representation during a Court case.
Please contact us for more information.
More detail on qualifying for Legal Aid
Below are some of the details on the thresholds for legal aid qualification. Please do not hesitate to contact us and we will calculate for you whether or not you are entitled to receive legal aid.
We will apply for Legal Aid to cover your case in the Magistrates Court and have asked you to complete the Application Form(s). The decision to award Legal Aid is made on the basis of both the details of your case (called the interest of justice test) and the financial information you provide (called the means test). It is, therefore, very important that you complete the Forms accurately and (where necessary) send evidence to support the information you provide. If you do not tell the truth on your Legal Aid Application about your assets, income and expenditure you could be prosecuted.
If you are under 18 or on certain Benefits you do not need to pay for the work we do for you in the Magistrates Court. These Benefits are Income Support, Income Based Job Seekers Allowance, Universal Credit, Guaranteed State Pension Credit and Income Related Employment and Support Allowance. You need to provide your National Insurance Number so that the Benefit can be checked.
In all other circumstances, your finances will be assessed to decide whether you are eligible for Legal Aid. Your annual household income and family circumstances will be taken into account and then:
- If your annual household income is £12,475 or less you get free Legal Aid.
- If it is £22,325 or more you are not eligible for Legal Aid.
The assessment of your income makes an allowance for a partner or any children that you have living with you so it is important that you include details of these on the Form.
If your annual household income is more than £12,475 but less than £22,325 then the Legal Aid Agency will look at your disposable income. This is the money that you are left with after you have paid your main bills. A standard amount is allowed for some bills such as gas, electricity and insurance and there is an allowance for a partner and/or any children. If you are left with:
- £3,398 or less a year (£283.17 or less a month) you get free Legal Aid.
- More than £3,398 a year (£283.17 a month) you are not eligible to receive Legal Aid.
If you do not think you can afford to pay privately or you think a mistake has been made you can ask for a review of your Legal Aid assessment.
If your case is heard in the Crown Court your financial situation will be assessed with one of the following outcomes:
- You do not have to pay for the work that we do for you because you have been awarded Legal Aid to cover all your costs.
- You have to pay a contribution towards our costs because you can afford to pay from your income, capital or both.
- You have to pay privately for all the work that we do for you.
You will be asked to provide evidence of your income and assets. If you do not provide this evidence, your payments could be increased. If you do not tell the truth on your Legal Aid Application about your income, assets and expenditure you could be prosecuted.
You will not have to pay towards the cost of your case if you are under 18 when you make your Application or if you receive any of the following Benefits:
- Income Support
- Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
- Universal Credit
- Guaranteed State Pension Credit
- Income Related Employment and Support Allowance.
If your annual household disposable income is £37,500 or more (the money you are left with after you have paid your main bills and taken into account your family circumstances, such as a partner and/or any children) then you will not be eligible for Leal Aid and you will have to pay privately for any work that we do for you.
You will have to pay a contribution towards the costs if your annual disposable income is above £3,398. A standard amount is allowed for some bills such as gas, electricity and insurance and there is an allowance for a partner and/or any children. Where you are required to pay towards your legal costs you will receive a Contribution Order from the Court giving details of how much you have to pay and how to make the payments. The first payment will be due within 28 days of your case being committed, sent or transferred for Trial. The payments will be collected by a private company on behalf of the Legal Aid Agency and they will also write to you. You must tell the Court about any changes to your financial circumstances during your case because a change may affect the amount you have to pay towards your defence costs. If you do not think you can afford to pay or you think that a mistake has been made you can ask for a review of the amount that the Court has told you to pay.
At the end of the case if you are found not guilty any payments you have made will be refunded with interest. If you paid late or not at all and action was taken against you, the cost of this action will be deducted from the refund.
If you are found guilty, you may also have to pay towards your defence costs from any capital assets you may have. This would only apply if:
- You have £30,000 or more of assets, for example savings, equity in property, shares or premium bonds.
- Any payments you have already made have not covered your total defence costs.
You will be told at the end of your case if you have to make a payment from capital. The Legal Aid Agency will notify you of the amount you owe once your legal costs have been finalised and details as to how to make payment. Rossendales is responsible for the collection and enforcement of Crown Court Legal Aid contributions.
Please contact us for more information.