In most cases, qualification for legal aid depends on two main factors. Your financial situation and the type of case would determine whether you are eligible to get legal aid.
As a rule, you need to show you are unable to pay for the legal costs of a serious problem to get legal aid for a civil case.
Typical examples of non-criminal cases would be for a debt, a family issue, or a problem with housing.
In most cases, you would have to provide details and some evidence of your income and savings. The same applies if you (or your partner) own property or receive welfare benefits.
Note: A claimant under the age of 18 may need to supply information on the income of their parent or a guardian.
Certain types of non-criminal cases may require extra evidence about the actual problem. An example would be the need to provide a court order or a GP letter in a court case. It may need to show evidence of victimisation or child abuse.
Some exceptions apply to the legal aid eligibility criteria in the United Kingdom. For example, the usual financial circumstances are not taken into account for:
Even if you qualify for legal aid, the financial help you get may not cover all the costs of the case. That means you may need to:
Note: Further legal aid guidance with information on costs assessment and remuneration is also available.
The Legal Aid Agency will make a charge or a claim on any money or property won from the case. In legal terms it is better known as the 'statutory charge'.
Payment can get deferred if it is your home. The debt would then get placed as a charge on the home (e.g. like a mortgage). Check with your legal adviser if you need to know how a statutory charge works.
You can contact the Land Charge Department at the Legal Aid Agency to discuss how to pay.
Land Charge Department
Telephone: 0203 334 6373
Information on call charges.
It is possible for legal aid to get withdrawn. If this happens you may need to repay the legal costs in full.
Legal aid for criminal cases has different eligibility criteria. But, being questioned at a police station means you have the right to get free legal advice.
Note: Anyone under 16 years old meets legal aid eligibility to get legal representation in court. The same would apply if you are under 18 and in full-time education or claiming certain benefits.
Note: You can search for a solicitor to get representation if you can pay for legal advice yourself. If not, or if you cannot get legal aid, free advice may be available as an alternative from:
Legal Aid Eligibility Criteria in the United Kingdom