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Criminal Legal Aid in Scotland: A Guide

Legal Aid is available in a variety of types of criminal cases in Scotland.

The availability of Legal Aid is broadly the same in the Justice of the Peace Court, Sheriff Court and High Court. However, the more serious or complex the allegation the more likely that Legal Aid will be made available.

The test regarding whether a person qualifies for legal aid has two elements

1)    A means test or financial eligibility test. This is based on the accused person’s income.
2)    An interests of justice test. This takes into account the seriousness of the offence and capability of the person charged to deal with their own legal affairs.

Criminal Legal aid will very often be available  even if a person is working and earning a reasonable salary.

If you want to plead Guilty (person not in custody and cited to court):

Legal Aid in the form of ABWOR (Advice by way of Representation) is available. This form of Legal Aid is more restricted and is capped. If an accused person earns over £245 per week then this type of  Legal Aid will not be available. This would include cases where a person is at liberty and attends a Bail Undertaking Hearing or is cited to attend court. An accused person would also have to satisfy an interests of justice test. Weekly/monthly outgoings are not taken in to account. In certain situations a person may require to make a restricted contribution to their legal fees to enable ABWOR to be granted. This is a sliding scale depending on income the maximum is £142 (If you earn £245 you will need to pay £142 towards your legal fees). If a person has more than £1716 in capital in the bank they will not qualify for ABWOR.

If you want to plead Guilty when appearing from Custody:

Broadly the same financial criteria and capping as in cases where a person is not in custody. One specific difference is that only a financial test applies. There is no need to satisfy an interests of justice test. Effectively if a person earns under the capped limit the accused person will get ABWOR no matter what the alleged offence is.

If you want plead Not Guilty:

Summary Criminal Legal Aid is available following a plea of not guilty. This is different  to ABWOR as the Legal Aid Board take into account the income of a persons partner and any dependents. Weekly/monthly outgoings are also taken into account. The financial test and interests of justice test apply here. There is no cap on income but income of over £400 per week (approximately) is likely to lead to refusal of legal aid on financial grounds. A person’s financial position after meeting all weekly/monthly outgoings and taking in to account children etc. will be taken into account.  Any money (capital) in the bank will also be considered.

It should ne noted that Legal Aid is granted in around 97% of cases in the Sheriff Court.

In general terms Criminal Legal Aid is more likely to be granted the more serious the offence a person is facing.

Legal Aid is not likely to be granted in cases involving speeding, driving with no insurance or driving using a mobile telephone. Some limited Legal Aid cover (Advice and Assistance) may be available for minor cases to enable a person to receive initial legal advice.

Serious Offences (Sheriff and Jury/ High Court Indictment cases):

Criminal Legal Aid is almost always granted in cases involving serious crime. The same financial tests remain but Legal Aid funding for serious offences is often more straightforward. Capital is also taken into account.

Criminal Appeals

Criminal Legal Aid is generally available in Criminal Appeal cases.

Proceeds of Crime cases

Legal Aid may be available in this type of case. Depends on type of case and financial position of accused.

Applying for Legal Aid - the Legal Aid Process

To be granted Criminal Legal Aid in any case the Scottish Legal Aid Board will require written vouching of an accused person’s financial position. They will require a benefits letter, wage slip, accounts if self employed. A copy of a person’s most recent bank statement will also be needed. All documentation requires to be recent and taken to a solicitor at the first meeting. A detailed list of weekly/monthly outgoings is also needed. Details of a partners income will be required. In addition, a note of a person’s national insurance number is needed. All of this information requires to be sent to The Scottish Legal Aid Board within 14 days of the first time the case calls in court.

Legal Aid Solicitors Glasgow

We are members of The Law Society of Scotland and are registered to provide Legal Aid by The Scottish Legal Aid Board. Legal Aid may be available in many cases.

24 Hour Help

We understand that being accused of a crime is a stressful experience. That’s why we provide 24 hour assistance for emergencies and effective representation should you require to appear before any court.

Call or visit us to discuss your case. We have offices in Baillieston, Cambuslang, Muirhead, and Saltmarket.

Criminal Defence Lawyers Glasgow

Contact Us Now - It’s never too soon to get in touch. Call us today on 0141 552 9193 or use our online enquiry form. Our solicitors will deal with your enquiry in the strictest of confidence.