To qualify for Legal Aid, you must meet a number of criteria. This includes meeting the low-income test and requires that you be facing serious civil or criminal charges.
If you are facing a mental health tribunal, fighting a case regarding children in care, or a case regarding child abduction, you do not need to meet the low-income requirement.
To check if you qualify for Legal Aid, click here.
I Am Not Eligible for Legal Aid. What Other Support Can I get?
Legal Aid is a valuable resource to the people who qualify for their service. But if you do not meet the eligibility criteria to receive their assistance, there are several other avenues you can pursue to ensure that you receive good legal advice regarding your civil disputes or criminal charges.
If you are not eligible for Legal Aid but require assistance with your legal matters, there are several options available to you. These options differ based on the type of assistance you need.
Support if Police are Detaining You
If you have been arrested and taken to the police station for questioning, you are entitled to free legal advice by law.
You can attain this legal advice via three avenues:
- Utilising the ‘duty solicitor’ at the station. The duty solicitor is available 24 hours a day, every day. They are also independent of the police, so they can provide you with a fair opinion that does not favour the police.
- Let the police know that you would like legal advice. Once you have let the police know that you would like legal advice, the police will then contact the Defence Solicitor Call Centre (DSCC) for you. You will then be able to discuss your matter with the call centre.
- Contact your own solicitor. If you have a solicitor you work with or even a solicitor you would prefer to speak to, you can have the police contact them for you. You will then be able to discuss your case with your chosen solicitor. Note that if you choose this avenue, the solicitor is not free of charge, and you will need to pay for their time.
Suppose the crime you have been accused of committing is not a serious offence, e.g. disorderly conduct. In that case, you may only be offered advice over the phone rather than a discussion with the duty solicitor.
Once you have requested legal advice, the police are legally not allowed to continue questioning you until you have received your legal advice.
The only exception to this rule is if you are being accused of a particularly serious crime. If that is the case, the police can withhold legal advice for a maximum of 36 hours after arriving at the police station (if you are suspected of terrorism, they can withhold legal advice for up to 48 hours). However, police cannot just withhold your right to legal advice. A senior officer must agree with the police questioning you and sign off on it.
Support for Other Legal Proceedings
If you are not eligible for Legal Aid, you may be able to receive free advice from another legal agency.
The Law Centres Network
The Law Centre’s Network is an organisation that provides legal advice to people that cannot afford a lawyer. This service is offered face-to-face and via telephone. They specialise in cases regarding:
- Welfare rights cases
- Disability cases
- Asylum and Immigration cases
- Employment rights
- Community care cases
- Discrimination cases
- Issues relating to debt owed
They can also take cases relating to:
- Mental health
- Public Law
- Education rights
- Family law
- and accept cases on behalf of young people
If the Law Centres Network is unable to help you with your specific case, they will try to refer you to an organisation that is able to assist you.
Citizens Advice is an organisation that helps people find help from suitable sources. They have a list of services available across the United Kingdom and can help you find the service that is best for you.
They also offer service advice on other issues including housing, debt and health.
You can find their website here.
Advice Now offers free guides on several issues, including different types of legal proceedings.
Their advice covers topics such as:
- Civil claims
- Issues with your benefits
They have hundreds of step-by-step guides for navigating legal issues and are a great resource if you don’t know what to do next.
You can find their website here.
Hiring a Solicitor
The final option available to you is not free. However, you always have the right to hire your own lawyer or solicitor. The cost of your own lawyer will vary depending on the lawyer you hire, but they can be expensive.