Paying for legal services before the Access to Justice Act 1999

State funded legal services

After World War 2, the labour government introduced a number of measures designed to close down the huge inequalities between the rich and poor.  

The type of services introduced by the labour government included, the National Health Service, the first legal aid scheme and the social security system that has developed considerably over the years.

The original legal aid system

The legal aid system was introduced to allow poorer members of society to receive the same level of legal protection as the richer people who have the sources to fund legal help. The legal aid scheme provided legal advice and representation by qualified solicitors, whilst the bill was picked up by the state, or a large proportion was paid by the state.  

In the 1990’s, the conservative government sought to cut down on the ever growing financial burden of the legal aid scheme by reducing the eligibility criteria for qualifying for legal help.  

In 1999, the labour government passed the Access to Justice Act in order to combat the criticisms the conservative government faced after making it harder to qualify for legal aid.

Legal aid before the Access to Justice Act 1999

Prior to the introduction of the Access to Justice Act 1999, there were six schemes that made up the overall legal aid system, these included: 

  • The legal advice and assistance scheme, also known as the ‘green paper’ scheme
  • Assistance by way of representation (ABWOR)
  • Civil legal aid
  • Criminal legal aid
  • Duty solicitor schemes for police station representation
  • Duty solicitor schemes for criminal cases in magistrate court 

Each individual scheme had a different eligibility criterion. Legal aid was not always a free service, the civil and criminal legal aid schemes required a contribution from the client if they earned or had savings over a certain amount.

The ‘Green Form’ Scheme

This was established to provide legal assistance an advice concerning all civil and criminal matters with the exception of conveyance and the drafting of wills. The purpose of the service was to draft legal correspondents and any other documents that maybe required, and also advising clients who wish to represent themselves in court on what manner to conduct and what to say. The only service that was not covered by the ‘Green Paper’ scheme was solicitor representation in court.

Assistance by way of representation (ABWOR)

This scheme extended the green paper scheme and included court representation in certain circumstances but was a means tested scheme, meaning only people earning below the criteria would qualify.

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For more information on:

  • Civil and Criminal Legal Aid
  • Duty solicitor schemes in police stations
  • Duty solicitor scheme in magistrate courts
  • Problems with the six scheme approach
  • Eligibility
  • Funding
  • Fraud and neglect
  • Means tested eligibility for criminal legal aid