Legal Aid in Jersey
Updated 26 August 2015
Words you may need to know
Acting Bâtonnier – the lawyer who carries out the work of making grants of Legal Aid for the Bâtonnier
Bâtonnier – official name given to the lawyer who runs the Legal Aid scheme.
Engagement letter – a document which describes the way in which two people agree to work together
Legal profession – a group of people who have a qualification in law
What is Legal Aid?
Legal Aid is a service provided by the legal profession in Jersey at their expense under which people who cannot afford a lawyer or who are unable to get one, can do so. Legal services are provided on a rota by lawyers who have been qualified for less than fifteen years.
New general guidelines for lawyers were approved by the Jersey Law Society on 30 September 2005 (and amended on 7 June 2010) and can be downloaded using the link below.
Notes for Legal Aid Applicants
Legal Aid in Jersey is a scheme which people who need legal help, and who cannot afford to pay the full cost of a lawyer to act for them, can apply to for help.
The Legal Aid Scheme in Jersey is mostly paid for by the legal profession. The lawyer who is appointed to act for a person is allowed to charge a reasonable fee, but he/she must act within the Legal Aid Guidelines set down by the Law Society (see reference in ‘What is Legal Aid’ above).
How to apply for Legal Aid
To make an application for Legal Aid you will need to collect an application form from the Legal Aid Office at law firm Collas Crill, 40 Don Street, St Helier, JE1 4XD, or from Citizens Advice Jersey, St Paul’s Community Centre, New Street St Helier.
The application form can also be downloaded by clicking on the following website: http://www.legalaid.je/
Legal Aid is administered by the Acting Bâtonnier. Contact details for the Legal Aid Office are as follows:-
Once the person who is applying for Legal Aid has returned the completed application form together with any relevant papers an appointment time that is convenient for both the person applying and for the Acting Bâtonnier will be made.
It is particularly important that a copy of the charge sheet is sent with the application form if the person applying for Legal Aid has been charged with a criminal offence.
If a child needs Legal Aid, the parent who lives with the child should come to the appointment with the child.
If the application for Legal Aid is successful the Legal Aid Office will write to the applicant to tell him / her the name of the law firm which will act for him/her.
Who is entitled to Legal Aid?
The Acting Bâtonnier considers all applications and decides whether to issue a Legal Aid Certificate.
Legal Aid is normally only given to people who live in Jersey. However, someone who lives somewhere else might be able to apply if they have been charged with a criminal offence or if they need legal advice about a problem which involves a child who does live in Jersey.
Legal Aid is not available for every type of dispute or problem. The Acting Bâtonnier, using the Legal Aid Guidelines, will decide whether a case is one for which Legal Aid is available.
When considering an application the Acting Bâtonnier will consider first of all whether they think the case is strong enough (or has enough good evidence) to be suitable for Legal Aid. This is called the "merits test".
Certain types of case, for example personal injury claims, have special rules which apply to any Legal Aid that is given.
The Acting Bâtonnier also has to decide if they think that the person applying for Legal Aid is ‘financially eligible’ (i.e. really does need the money). To make this decision the Acting Bâtonnier looks at the information that has been filled in on the application form about how much income the person has and the value of anything they own (ie their ‘capital’). The amount that the Acting Bâtonnier considers also includes the income and amount of any capital that the husband or wife or partner of the person applying for Legal Aid has.
Children who need Legal Aid are assessed on their parents' financial position and the parents are responsible for any fees charged.
Once someone has been granted a legal aid certificate it is up to the law firm that is appointed to act to decide what charges they will make to the person for their services.
Can someone applying for Legal Aid choose their lawyer?
No. The lawyer appointed to help will be the next lawyer on the rota which is run by the Legal Aid Office. Only in unusual circumstances will this not happen.
If the lawyer originally appointed cannot act for someone then a new lawyer may have to be appointed.
How much does Legal Aid cost?
A lawyer who is appointed to act for someone is entitled to charge a reasonable fee in accordance with the Legal Aid guidelines. The guidelines include quite detailed rules about what can be charged. These rules take in to account the applicant’s household income and capital as well as any settlement or money that may be awarded by the court at the end of the case.
The lawyer must provide the applicant with a detailed engagement letter which should set out how their charges will be made and an estimate of their likely legal fees.
Anyone awarded a legal aid certificate must tell their lawyer of any changes in their financial position. The lawyer must also tell of any changes to the way their fees are charged.
Anyone granted a Legal Aid certificate may be asked to pay some money towards the lawyer’s fees before getting a bill from the lawyer. This is known as asking for ‘money on account’ and means that the lawyer knows they will get at least some money towards their costs.
This is allowed so long as the amount asked for is fair. If the person does not think the amount asked for is fair they must mention it immediately to the law firm and then to the Legal Aid Office.
If someone with a Legal Aid certificate has a complaint about their lawyer the problem should be discussed first with the law firm that has been appointed. If this does not resolve the problem the Acting Bâtonnier must be told of the complaint.
Anyone with a Legal Aid certificate can complain about any bill or ‘fee note’ they receive from their lawyer. There is a right to ask the Acting Bâtonnier for a decision on the amount of money that has been charged but anyone wishing to complain in this way must contact the Legal Aid Office as soon as possible or else they might lose the right to complain.
Can a Legal Aid certificate be taken away?
Yes, in certain circumstances. It is impossible to list every example, but reasons could include:
i) a failure to disclose financial information or evidence in reply to a reasonable request
ii) a failure to provide complete or accurate information
iii) where it becomes clear that a case is not likely to succeed because it is not strong enough
iv) if the person with the Legal Aid certificate fails to give instructions to their lawyer or refuses to accept reasonable advice
v) if the person who holds the Legal Aid certificate behaves in a way that, in the opinion of the Acting Bâtonnier, means that they do not deserve the assistance that they have been offered. This behaviour could include being abusive or violent towards a lawyer or staff member.
Appeals against the Acting Bâtonnier’s decision.
If someone with a Legal Aid certificate is unhappy with any decision made by the Acting Bâtonnier, or their staff, he/she has the right to ask for their problem to be referred to the Bâtonnier.