Justice Dictionary


legal aid watch dictionary

“Magnified (8/365)” by jakebouma. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA

Legal Aid can be complicated. We’ve put together a glossary of terms to make things clearer.


The Ministry of Justice says that in civil (non-criminal cases) cases, you usually need to show you can’t afford to pay for legal costs and that your problem is serious.  You’ll usually have to give details of your income, benefits and property.

In criminal cases, a police custody officer will help you get legal aid if you’ve been arrested and held at a police station. A solicitor will check if you qualify for legal aid if you’re charged with a crime or have to go to court. You’ll get legal aid automatically if you’re under 16 (or under 18 and in full-time education) or on certain benefits.

See The Justice Gap for a guide on what assets and income determines your eligibility for legal aid.

Fixed-fee basis:

This is where a legal service is agreed upon for a fixed price, so you know before you start how much it will cost.

Public Access basis:

Through ‘Public Access’, members of the public can contract a barrister to provide legal advice or representation in court.  This means they don’t have to go through a solicitor first, who would appoint the barrister. A solicitor is not involved at any stage.

Residence Test:

The Citizens Advice Bureau says that if you come to the UK from abroad and want to claim certain benefits, you must pass a test, known as the habitual residence test. The test also applies to British citizens returning to the UK after time abroad. The right to claim benefits depends on your immigration status.

Blogger Legal Aid Changes have published a link to a new report launched by the No Recourse to Public Funds Network (NRPF) on the likely impact of the proposed residence test for civil legal aid.

Treasury Counsel: 

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Law Enforcement, the Treasury Counsel to the Crown at the Central Criminal Court is “a group of barristers, nominated by the Attorney-General, who receive briefs from the Director of Public Prosecutions to appear for the prosecution in trials at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey)”.


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