The more complex the society, the more numerous the legal problems where individuals need professional assistance. It is often necessary to retain the services of counsel for court proceedings. Legal aid is there to give individuals the possibility to obtain assistance for legal matters fully or partially at the expense of the state.
The LEGAL AID LAW (1999 Revision) gives authority for Courts to grant free or subsidised legal aid as follows:
- Criminal:In the Grand Court for any offence. In the Summary Court (including Youth Court) for scheduled offences only. The term “scheduled offences” means those offences listed in a schedule to the Law.
- Court of Appeal: The Court of Appeal Law allows the Court to grant legal aid for appeal purposes. In appeal cases an attorney’s opinion as to the merits of an appeal is required.
Applicants will be interviewed by the Legal Aid Officer.
The Legal Aid Officer will verify important points such as employment, income from all sources, bank accounts, land ownership and claimed expenses.
- Where relevant, proof of earnings and bank accounts will be requested.
- In criminal cases the Legal Aid Officer will want to know what the applicant is charged with and the next hearing date. The applicant will also be asked if he/she has entered a plea.
- In civil cases the applicant should be able to describe the nature of the proceeding; for example, debt, property dispute, personal injury claim. Copies of any relevant documents, such as medical reports or contracts will be required.
- In divorce cases a history of the marriage such as length of marriage, when separated, children, reason for separation, any violence, value of matrimonial property. If violence is involved a copy of police reports will be required where applicable.
- In Youth Court cases, the parent will be questioned as to his/her earnings.
If documents have been requested no further action will be taken until these documents are provided.
The file will be put before a judge for a decision. If the application is granted a contribution order may be made.
If the legal aid application is granted the applicant will be contacted and informed of the attorney who will take the case. At this point the applicant will be required to set up an appointment to meet with the attorney. A certificate is granted.
If the application has been refused, the applicant will be notified.
Certificates may be amended for a variety of reasons:
- Applicants may want a change of attorney. This request must be in writing. If a change is authorised an amended certificate will be issued.
- Attorney may request to come off file.
- Conditions may change, such as contributions, limitations or extensions.
Certificates may be discharged for a variety of reasons:
- Applicants may fail to keep up with their contributions
- Applicants may decide to pay for their own attorney.
- Case concluded.
A parent may apply on behalf of an accused child. The statement of means must set out the parent’s means.