Legal Aid

Navigating the Legal Aid system is not always the most straightforward task, which is why you need a firm who has extensive knowledge and experience in providing legally aided services.

When is criminal legal aid available?

Criminal Legal Aid is available in certain cases, depending on the court where the case is due to be heard, the type of offence and the defendant’s means. A detailed guide is available at
Contact us to discuss your personal circumstances.

Interests of Justice test

The interests of justice test is automatically passed in the following circumstances:

  • Where the applicant is under 18 years old 
  • Where a case has been committed, sent or transferred to the Crown Court for trial or sentence 
  • Voluntary bills of indictment 
  • Retrials

The interests of justice test is also usually satisfied when there is a possibility of a custodial sentence upon conviction, when there will be cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses, when there is a substantial question of law and/or when the applicant is unlikely to be unable understand proceedings without the benefit of a legal representative.


What is a means-test?

Providing that the interests of justice test has been passed, applicants also need to pass a means-test in order to be eligible for Legal Aid. The means test is automatically passed (“passported”) in the following circumstances:

  • Where the applicant is under 18 years old 
  • Where the applicant receives income support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Universal Credit, State Pension Guarantee Credit and/or income-based Employment and Support Allowance.

The means-test can also be passed in other circumstances. An initial means-test will be carried out which will take calculate gross annual income of the applicant (and their partner if applicable) and then adjusted to take into consideration any children residing with them. If adjusted income is less than £12,475 then the means-test will have been passed.

If adjusted income is more than £12,475 but less than £22,325 then a full means-test will be undertaken in order to work out “disposable income” which is calculated by deducting living costs from gross annual income.

What's included in "living costs"?

  • Tax and National Insurance 
  • Annual housing costs 
  • Annual childcare costs 
  • Annual maintenance to former partners and any children
  • An adjusted annual living allowance (set by the Legal Aid Agency).

In short, if an applicant’s disposable income is £3398 per year or less, they will receive Legal Aid in both the Magistrates’ Court (provided they have passed the interests of justice test above) and the Crown Court, with no contributions.

If an applicant’s disposable income is more than £3398 per year but less than £37,500 then they will not be eligible for Legal Aid in the Magistrates’ Court but will be eligible in the Crown Court with contributions. Any applicant with a disposable income of £37,500 per year or more will not be eligible for Legal Aid in either court.

Contributions in the Crown Court

For Crown Court trials, applicants whose annual disposable income is above the £3,398 threshold will have to make income contributions, which are set at 90% of disposable income for a maximum of 6 months.

If an applicant’s disposable income is far greater than the anticipated costs of their case, contributions will be capped to reduce the risk of overpayment. If at the end of your case, you are convicted and have paid more in contributions than the cost of your defence, any additional monies will be returned to you.

If you are convicted and have assets worth £30,000 or more, you may have to pay a capital contribution if your income contributions did not cover the cost of your defence.

At the end of the case, if the applicant is found not guilty of all charges they will get all their money back with interest at a rate of 2%. If they are found guilty of some charges but acquitted of others, they may be eligible to receive some of their contributions back, depending on the circumstances.

Defendant’s Costs Orders

If you are found not guilty of all charges, you may be able to recover some of the costs involved in your attendance at court, e.g. travel costs.

If you were not eligible for Legal Aid and had to pay for legal representation privately, some of the costs of your legal representation may be recovered if you are found not guilty of some/all of the charges.

As an experienced firm, we are very familiar with applications for Legal Aid and Defendant’s Costs Orders. Our clients can rest assured that we will always have a keen eye on the financial aspect of their case.