Legal Aid has been in existence since 1980. The Legal Aid Scheme (“the Scheme”) was established by the Legal Aid Act of 1980. Its’ most recent amendment was the Legal Aid Amendment Act 2003 which came into force on January 19th, 2004.
The Legal Aid Office is a government department whose main purpose is to ensure that legal advice and representation is readily available to those who need it most and who because of limited financial means can least afford it
Legal Aid is available for those persons who qualify for the grant of a Legal Aid Certificate in the areas of criminal, civil and family law. It is available for criminal matters in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and, where it is determined that a matter is of public interest, in the Privy Council. Legal Aid can also be granted for criminal offenses in Magistrates Court at the discretion of the Legal Aid Committee or where the offence carries a sentence of 5 or more years.
In the area of civil law and family law, Legal Aid can be granted for proceedings such as landlord and tenant in Magistrates’ Court and child maintenance and custody matters in Family Court. In the Supreme Court Legal Aid can be granted for matters such as personal injuries claims, divorce and ancillary relief matters and negligence. Legal Aid is also granted for appeals which include appeals to the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and Privy Counsel.