Is legal aid becoming redundant?

January 5, 2016

Hiring legal representation doesn’t come cheap, with some of the UK’s top solicitors charging over eight hundred pounds an hour. This is where legal aid can be of assistance. Legal aid is a pot of money that is funded by the public to help with legal costs. According to the official government website, to qualify for legal aid you must be able to prove at least one of the following:

  • You or your family are at risk of serious harm (e.g. if this was a domestic case)
  • You are at risk of becoming homeless
  • You face prison for a crime that you have been accused of
  • You are being discriminated against
  • You are in need of family mediation
  • You are bringing a case under the Human Rights Act

To qualify for legal aid you will also have to prove to the government that you cannot afford to pay for legal representation yourself. It sounds like a great way to help those less fortunate – but is it slowly becoming redundant? Let’s take a look.

Legal aid is aimed to help people who have low incomes or are on benefits, so it is a good way to ensure that everyone – regardless of their financial status – can have decent legal representation should they need it. So how do you know if your earnings are low enough to qualify for legal aid? The basic rule to qualify, if you live in England and Wales, is that your combined household income is less than £31,884 per month. You also cannot have more than £8,000 in savings. However, each case is assessed individually.

With the average UK salary being £26,500 – legal aid is still a relevant and necessary way to ensure that people on the lower end of the pay scale can get the legal representation that they need. This is especially necessary if the household, like many, is bringing in a sole wage.

Legal aid is there to help people who are in exceptional situations like a domestic violence case, for example. These rules are strict and rarely change. However, as every case is different, legal aid is decided on a case-by-case basis – so there are sometimes (however rarely) exceptions to the rules. But have we reached a point whereby legal aid can be considered redundant in the UK justice system in 2016?

The short answer is no. There were over a million representative cases in the courts that were as a direct result of application for legal aid in 2014/15 and although this total number has continued to drop for the past 10 years, there are still significant proportions, both layman and professional, that depend on legal aid within the UK justice system.

If you require legal aid, then Watson’s Solicitors can assist you in some limited circumstances. We will be happy to discuss this further with you, so please don’t hesitate to give us a call on 01925 571212.

If you would like some more information on the government’s legal aid system, click here.

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