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Access to Justice: Government Launches Consultation on New Legal Aid Scheme

The Government has launched a public consultation on the proposed Legal Aid Scheme to replace the existing Law Society scheme.

It will be recalled that, following the passing of the Access to Justice (Jersey) Law 2019, the Legal Aid Guidelines Advisory Committee (made up of judicial and legal professionals (including the Law Society), representation from States Assembly Members and nominations made by the Chief Minister) was charged with developing a revised scheme that maintained the provision of legal representation for the most vulnerable members of the community while sharing the burden of Legal Aid more fairly between the Government (in line with their statutory obligations in respect of public law matters) and the legal profession.

The proposed new scheme includes a number of changes for assessing who should be eligible for Legal Aid. These include:

  • Assessing financial eligibility based on an individual’s capital and income levels, rather than based on their household capital and income;
  • Differentiated income limits for Public and Private Law (with lower limits applicable in respect of private law matters);
  • Removing the residency test for people applying for Public/Criminal Law Legal aid;
  • Introducing a minimum 12-month residency test for Private/Civil Law Legal aid;
  • Removing the requirement to pay contributions towards Public/Criminal Law Legal aid, and the introduction of an accredited panel of criminal lawyers to provide legal aid in criminal cases.

Importantly, the revised scheme retains the primary amendments originally proposed by the Law Society, including the following key elements:

  • Public Law Legal Aid (including Criminal Law) to be subject to opt-in by practitioners, who must be accredited but who will be remunerated on the basis of a fixed fee/tariff;
  • Family law matters and claims will only be eligible where there are dependent children (other than where a civil injunction has been granted and/or criminal prosecution instigated on the grounds of domestic abuse or violence);
  • Child maintenance claims where the applicant is on income support and has no other capital assets or income will not be eligible;
  • Discretionary Legal Aid certificates will no longer be issued, although the Judicial Greffier will retain a discretion in exceptional circumstances;
  • Operation of the Legal Aid Office to be funded by the Government (which formalises the arrangements which have been in place since 2019).

Click Legal Aid to view/download the proposed new scheme

Click Compare to view/download a comparison of the existing, proposed (by the Law Society) and revised (by Guidelines Advisory Committee)

Following the consultation, the scheme will be considered by the States Assembly. Provided the States Assembly do not object, the scheme will come into effect on 1 January 2022.

Islanders can take part in the consultation in several ways:

Responses can be returned to: Legal Aid Consultation, 19-21 Broad Street, St Helier, JE2 3RR

  • Via phone on 01534 440684. Islanders will be able to leave a message, and someone will call them back to receive their views.

Closing date: 29 September 2021

Members are encouraged to express their views in response to the consultation if they wish.  Responses may, alternatively, be sent to the Law Society via ceo@jerseylawsociety.je, for inclusion in a collective response.  Any such responses should be received no later than 24 September 2021.