Going to court can be very expensive. Court fees can build up, especially if the case is lengthy. For some people, court is necessary and the only option available, however the fees involved make it almost impossible. These people may be eligible for legal aid, which can help towards court costs.
Legal aid is a financial scheme set up through the government by the legal services commission. There are many areas in which legal aid can help, including:
- homelessness or losing your home
- when your child is at risk of being taken into care
- advice on finances, children and divorce after being in an abusive relationship
- family mediation
- seeking asylum
If someone is eligible for legal aid, the scheme will cover areas such as:
- initial legal help and advice
- help with negotiations and paperwork
- help if you’re accused of a crime, e.g. advice at a police station
- the cost of a solicitor that can represent them in court
In order to receive legal aid at a magistrates’ court, certain financial conditions need to be met. One can only get legal help in court if it has been deemed reasonable, necessary and in the interests of justice by the courts.
Legal Aid for Criminals
Legal aid for criminals is organised by a separate organisation called the Criminal Defence Service.
A person being detained in a police station that is facing a charge is entitled to free legal advice at first. The legal adviser at the initial meeting can determine whether the person in question is eligible for legal aid. If someone being charged at a police station has their own solicitor, they may use them. If that solicitor works with the Criminal Defence Service then the accused will not have to pay for that service.
If someone has not yet been charged, they still may be eligible for legal aid. This is what is known as Advice and Assistance, and may involve a solicitor giving general advice or to get help from a barrister. This kind of help may be available if someone is on low income or receiving:
- Income Support
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit or Universal Credit
- Working Tax Credit