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Legal Aid

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 10 October 2006

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many recipients of legal aid have been required to make repayments in total (a) before and (b) after the conclusion of proceedings in the most recent year for which information is available. (91956)

In civil proceedings funded by the community legal service (CLS), during 2005-06, 7,685 legal aid certificates were revoked. These actions require those to whom the certificates were issued to pay the Legal Services Commission (LSC) the value of the work carried out under the certificate. Two thirds of those certificates were revoked before the proceedings had been completed, and one third after.1

Additionally, during 2005-06 17,854 cases closed in circumstances that require the legally aided client to repay the costs to the CLS back to the LSC. This happens in successful cases where the value of money or property agreed to be paid to the client exceeds the money paid from the CLS.

In criminal cases funded by the criminal defence service (CDS), during 2005-06 there were 398 recovery of defence costs orders (RDCOs) issued to criminal defendants after the case had concluded.

1 This is an estimate based on the number of cases reported to the LSC. Not all cases have been reported.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what criteria are used to determine access to legal aid; and if she will make a statement. (92656)

Civil legal aid is available to anyone who qualifies, provided that the case is within the scope of the scheme. Each application is assessed on an individual basis, and is subject to statutory tests of the applicant’s financial means and the merits of the case.

Criminal legal advice and assistance is freely available to individuals detained at police stations. To qualify for publicly funded representation at magistrates courts, defendants must satisfy both the interests of justice test as well as a new financial eligibility test introduced by the Criminal Defence Service Act 2006. Publicly funded representation at the Crown court depends on the defendant meeting the interests of justice test.