What is Legal Aid?
Legal Aid is a service provided by the legal profession in Jersey at their expense under which people who cannot afford a lawyer or who are unable to get one can do so. Legal services are provided on a rota by lawyers who have been qualified for less than fifteen years.
Notes for Legal Aid Applicants
Legal Aid in Jersey is a scheme which people who need legal help but who cannot afford to pay the full cost of a lawyer to act for them.
The Legal Aid Scheme in Jersey is mostly paid for by the legal profession. The lawyer who is appointed to act for a person is allowed to charge a reasonable fee, but they must act within the Legal Aid Guidelines set down by the Law Society.
How to apply
Legal Aid applications are available online by clicking here.
Legal Aid is administered by the Acting Bâtonnier. Contact details for the Legal Aid Office are as follows:-
If the person applying for Legal Aid has been charged with a criminal offence, details of the charge should be included on the application and if possible a copy of the charge sheet should be scanned and e-mailed.
If a child under 16 needs Legal Aid, a parent should apply on their behalf.
If the application for Legal Aid is successful, the Legal Aid Office will contact the applicant to tell them the name of the law firm which will act for them.
Who is entitled
The Acting Bâtonnier considers all applications and decides whether to issue a Legal Aid Certificate.
Legal Aid is normally only given to people who live in Jersey. Someone who lives somewhere else might be able to apply if they have been charged with a criminal offence or if they need legal advice about a problem which involves a child who lives in Jersey.
Legal Aid is not available for every type of dispute or problem. The Acting Bâtonnier, using the Legal Aid Guidelines, will decide whether a case is one for which Legal Aid is available.
When considering an application, the Acting Bâtonnier will consider first of all whether they think the case is strong enough. This is called the merits test.
Certain types of case, for example personal injury claims, have special rules which apply.
The Acting Bâtonnier also has to decide if they think that the person applying for Legal Aid is financially eligible. To make this decision, the Acting Bâtonnier looks at the information that has been filled in on the application form about how much income the person has and the value of anything they own. The amount includes the income and amount of any capital that the partner of the person applying for Legal Aid has.
Children who need Legal Aid are assessed on their parents’ financial position and the parents are responsible for any fees charged.
Once someone has been granted a Legal Aid certificate, it is up to the law firm appointed to decide what charges they will make to the person for their services.
Can someone choose their lawyer?
No. The lawyer appointed to help will be the next lawyer on the rota. Only in unusual circumstances will this not happen.
If the lawyer originally appointed cannot act for someone, a new lawyer may have to be appointed.
A lawyer who is appointed to act for someone is entitled to charge a reasonable fee in accordance with the Legal Aid guidelines. The guidelines include detailed rules about what can be charged. These rules take in to account the applicant’s household income and capital as well as any settlement or money that may be awarded by the court at the end of the case.
The lawyer must provide the applicant with a detailed engagement letter which should set out how their charges will be made and an estimate of their likely legal fees.
Anyone granted a Legal Aid certificate may be asked to pay some money towards the lawyer’s fees before getting a bill from the lawyer. This is known as asking for money on account.
This is allowed so long as the amount asked for is fair. If the person does not think the amount asked for is fair, they must mention it immediately to the law firm.
If someone with a Legal Aid certificate has a complaint about their lawyer or their lawyer’s fees, the problem should be discussed first with the law firm that has been appointed. If this does not resolve the problem, the complaint can be escalated to the Law Society. Click here
Can a Legal Aid certificate be taken away?
Yes, in certain circumstances.