Legal aid was and to a certain degree is an invaluable resource for many individuals seeking legal representation.
Would-be claimants of legal aid must usually prove that their case is eligible for legal aid, that the problem is sufficiently serious and that they cannot afford to pay for legal costs out of their own pocket.
Which kind of cases?
Some examples of eligible cases include:
People that are in physical danger of violence or serious harm may be eligible to receive legal aid (domestic violence).
People that have been accused of a crime.
People facing discrimination.
Family mediation cases.
Types of legal aid
In the UK there are two different types of legal aid; for criminal and civil cases.
In criminal cases, you can get, for example, free legal advice before being questioned by police, regardless of your income.
Civil cases usually involve private disputes between individuals. This may include the breaking up of relationships and families or disputes of goods and purchases.
Cuts to legal aid
Under the coalition government in 2012, severe cuts were made to the legal aid system under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, as it sought to save £450m per year. This has raised questions of whether access to justice has been restricted.
Cases involving civil matters were hit hardest. The family courts, in particular, have seen a large increase in unrepresented litigants. In 2017, the justice secretary, David Liddington stated his commitment to reviewing the cuts. However, the situation is still the same and grant of legal aid is proving very difficult to obtain.
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This article is written by our legal content writer James Chalkley (LLB. LLM.)