When we require court representation, whether that is by a solicitor or other legal professional, costs can be involved. In order to meet these costs, you can apply for legal aid. Legal aid is available to help meet the cost of legal representation when attending court and tribunals. Legal advice and family mediation are also covered in the cost of legal aid.
Use this blog as a guide to help further your understanding of legal aid in Northern Ireland. We will explain what legal aid is, how to apply for legal aid, the types of legal aid available to you and how to contact us to discuss legal aid.
How to get Legal Aid
In order to receive legal aid, you must be able to confirm that your case is eligible, that there is a serious problem and that you cannot afford to pay the cost on your own. A legal advisor should apply for your legal aid on your behalf.
Examples when Legal Aid has been used
Legal aid has been used in cases where a person is at risk from domestic abuse, homelessness or they are at risk of losing their house or they have faced discrimination and are adding a legal argument under the Human Rights Act.
What is Legal Aid?
Legal aid is assistance that’s available to those who cannot afford to pay for legal advice or legal representation in court, in the form of a solicitor or barrister. There are different types of legal aid worth knowing about, should you ever find yourself or a loved one ever find themselves in a position where legal representation at court is required.
Legal aid can be paid through the following three different schemes:
- Advice and Assistance
- Civil Legal Aid
- Criminal Legal Aid
Advice and Assistance Legal Aid
The Advice and Assistance Legal Aid scheme can be used to help pay for the advice from a solicitor on any area of Northern Ireland law or to settle a dispute outside of the courtroom. It can also provide financial support when it is required that a solicitor represents their client in court (known as ABWOR, ‘assistance by way of representation’). This scheme covers various matters including matters with children, divorce, housing welfare and employment.
Civil Legal Aid
Civil legal aid can provide you with the required funding to get your case into court. It can also provide further funding for the cost of barristers and other legal experts. You may need to use the Civil Legal Aid scheme in disputes that affect families and children, such as divorce. Civil legal aid can be actioned for compensation, such as injuries resulting from an accident or medical negligence. An eligibility test is used to grant civil legal aid in this case.
Criminal Legal Aid
Finally, criminal legal aid can provide assistance by representation to those facing criminal charges. It also offers legal advice and support to those who may require it.
The outcome to grant criminal legal aid is decided upon by the court, who will conduct a ‘Means Test’ and a ‘Merits Test’.
A ‘Means Test’ evaluates if the individual does not have enough income to pay for their defence. A ‘Merits Test’ is conducted in the interest of justice.
An individual is entitled to free (and untested) legal aid if they are in a police station and being interviewed by the police in relation to criminal charges.
The court will also consider the following before granting legal aid:
- The likelihood of imprisonment if found guilty
- Potential loss of livelihood if found guilty
- Question of law involved in the case
- Any earlier suspended sentences which may be activated if found guilty
Applying For Legal Aid
You should apply for legal aid through a solicitor who can advise you of your eligibility once they are made aware of the circumstances of the dispute.
Contact H McPartland & Sons to discuss your eligibility for Legal Aid in Northern Ireland with a member of our experienced team.