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Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012

Section 21: Financial resources

165.Section 21 relates to financial eligibility for legal aid services. In the Access to Justice Act 1999 separate provision is made in respect of financial eligibility for different types of legal aid (in section 7, in respect of civil legal aid and in paragraph 3B of Schedule 3, in respect of criminal legal aid in the form of representation). This section contains provisions on financial eligibility that are applicable to both civil and criminal legal aid.

166.Subsection (1) specifies the basic rule, applicable to both civil and criminal aid, that legal aid will only be granted to an individual who is determined to be financially eligible for the services. As under the Access to Justice Act 1999, the financial eligibility rules will be contained in regulations made by the Lord Chancellor (see subsection (2)). The basic rule in subsection (1) applies to decisions on granting civil legal aid and decisions on granting criminal legal aid for representation in criminal proceedings. It also applies to decisions on granting criminal legal aid for advice and assistance for criminal proceedings, if regulations under section 15 provide for that (see the definition of a “relevant determination” in subsection (8)).

167.Subsection (2)(b) makes clear that regulations may provide for exceptions from the basic rule, so that an individual may receive certain services regardless of their financial means.

168.Subsections (3) and (4) enable regulations to provide that an individual is to be treated as having or not having particular financial resources, including providing that an individual is to be treated as having financial resources of a person of a specified description. This allows, for example, for regulations on financial eligibility to provide that the resources of the partner of a legal aid applicant are to be treated as the resources of the applicant.

169.Subsections (5) and (6) enable regulations to make provision about making and withdrawing financial eligibility determinations. Subsection (6) is a non-exhaustive list of matters that such regulations may contain, including provision requiring information and documents to be provided and provision establishing procedures for the review of financial eligibility determinations.

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