Financial help in legal matters
When people are faced with a legal problem, the majority of people will usually need help from some sort of legal professional, most commonly a lawyer. It may be the case that the person will only need advice or information from the legal professional, but this may be extended to people who need help in starting the court proceedings and possibly even representation in court during the proceedings.
Worried about seeking legal advice
Many people will need to seek legal advice, but will not due to three main problems:
The lack of knowledge: people may not know who to contact, what solicitors firm to use, what area of law their case will fall under in order to search for the appropriate help.
The fear of dealing with a profession legal representative
The problem with affording the cost of a legal professional. Solicitors fees will vary from £80 – up to £300 per hour, depending on the solicitors used.
Access to Justice
If a person cannot get the help they need, they are said to have been denied access to justice. There are many services available for helping people establish their rights and allow them access to justice., for example the Citizens advice bureaux.
When legal aid was established in 1949, about 80% of the population would have been eligible. Due to the fact that the financial limitation placed on legal aid assistance was not kept in line with inflation, the amount of people eligible for legal funding gradually reduced every year.
In 1973, there were severe cuts to the system and only 40% qualified, with the majority of which had to contribute towards their financial help.
Under the Access to Justice Act 1999, the old scheme of legal aid was replaced by two new schemes, The community Legal service for civil matters and the Criminal defence service for criminal cases.
The legal services commission
The members of the commission are appointed by the Lord Chancellor.
The legal services commission took over all the legal funding of civil cases from the legal aid board. It is responsible for managing the Legal services fund and is also able to make contracts with all types of legal services.
The commission is responsible for developing local, regional and divisional schemes to ensure the legal funding available matches the need for the help.
The Community Legal service fund
There are 2 sub-budgets within the legal services fund. These are divided into civil and family. Money is allocated to regional offices according to the amounts necessarily required.
Matters excluded from help by the legal services fund
Certain types of legal matters cannot be funded by the community legal services fund, these include:
- Allegations of injuries, death or damage to property caused by negligence excluding clinical negligence.
- Boundary disputes
- The making of wills
- Matters of trust law
- Defamation or malicious falsehood
- Matters of company or partnership law, or,
- Other maters arising from business trade
Funding is available for cases in the County court, high court and appeal courts. However, cases with claims of under £5000 cannot apply for legal funding.
Funding is also not available for tribunal cases, except for mental health tribunals.