Changes to Legal Aid in Criminal Cases
Legal Aid at the Police Station
Any person arrested within England and Wales is always entitled to free legal advice at the police station. We merely require the defendant to ask for ‘Bobbetts Mackan’ and we can then proceed to give advice over the phone or attend in person for interview. Both of these are free of charge.
Legal Aid in Criminal Court Cases
Bobbetts Mackan has been committed to the provision of Publicly Funded legal services (Legal Aid) since its origins in the 1800’s.
Historically, Legal Aid for criminal cases in the Magistrates Court was not ‘means tested’. Cases in the Crown Court were however subject to a contribution at the end of a case where the defendant was convicted.
From October 2nd 2006 this changed.
In the Magistrates Court full means testing came into effect and now applies to all applications for cases to be paid for by Public Funds by way of grant of legal aid.
In the Crown Court it still continues to be subject to a contribution, if convicted, at the end.
What is the impact of this?
Anyone now applying for 'Legal Aid' in Criminal Cases in the Magistrates Court will have to complete a 10 page form called a CRM14.
There are two elements to this form – one assesses the financial means of the applicant and the other examines why the defendant needs ‘Legal Aid’.
Why do you want legal aid?
This is known as ‘the interests of justice test’ and deals with ‘why’ it should be granted in any particular case. Those at Court processing these applications have to be satisfied that anyone applying should get 'Legal Aid' as a result of the type of case it is and the consequences to the applicant. Although there have been some small changes, it is very much the same test as was applied before (pre 2nd October 2006)
Are you financially eligible for legal aid?
The ‘means test’ also has to be passed and this is best understood in the following stages.
Stage 1. Anyone who receives one of the following state benefits will qualify:
- Income support.
- Income Related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Income Based Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and
· Guarantee State Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit)
Any applicant who is a youth - under the age of 18, will also qualify.
Stage 2. Anyone who is not a youth or is not on one of the benefits listed above will have to complete both a CRM14 and possibly a CRM15 - giving details of:
- All of their income, debits and savings.
- The income, debits and savings of their partner.
The applicant’s means shall then be assessed at the court and taking income, outgoings and responsibilities into account, the Court and/or the Legal Aid Agency will decide whether the applicant gets legal aid or not.
If, after they have done the calculation the applicant’s income is less than £12,475 a year legal aid will be granted.
If it is less than £22,325 a year and the applicant has a calculated disposable income of less than £3,398 a year legal aid will be granted.
The application for legal aid can be complicated and Bobbetts Mackan has an in-house Legal Assistant to help applicants with this process. As the majority of applicants are required to provide evidence in support of their application, we advise that you meet with one of our solicitors, so that they can inform you as to what is required. You can book an appointment to discuss your eligibility by contacting us the following methods:
Tel number: 0117 9299001
What happens if I am refused Legal Aid?
The court and the Legal Aid Agency are strict when it comes to financial eligibility and the requirement of evidence and therefore you may find that your application is refused if you cannot provide the necessary documents.
Applicants who are refused legal aid and cannot afford to pay for private representation can appeal to a hardship unit run by the Legal Aid Agency. This is achieved via the completion and submission to the Legal Aid Agency of a CRM16 form.
If you find yourself in this position we will advise you on the steps that can be taken following a detailed consideration of your initial application and your financial circumstances. We may also be able to help you on a private basis. For more information, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org