Whatever the circumstances that you find yourself on the wrong side of the law, or allegedly so, a key consideration is how to fund it. From legal aid to funding a case with your own finances, there is a lot to weigh up in terms of eligibility, value and quality of the legal services you will get.
Everybody wants a strong, well-rounded defence and a solicitor they can have on speed dial when necessary. Not everybody, unfortunately, has the available funds to pay upfront for legal costs.
In this blog, we will explore the positives and negatives around legal aid and private funding, so that you can make an informed decision, should the need arise.
What is legal aid?
Legal aid is a financial provision that is publicly funded. It is available for people who meet specific criteria and are unable to afford legal representation.
The point of legal aid is to ensure that eligible people are entitled to a defence and the right to a fair trial, even if they do not have the funds to pay for it themselves.
Legal aid entitlement is getting tighter
All legal aid is means-tested.
If you receive benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support or Universal Credit, you may be more likely to be granted access to the funding.
If you work, your salary must be within a certain bracket.
For single people, the maximum monthly income is £1085, and for those with a partner, it’s £1245 or less. There is a small extra allowance if you have children.
What constitutes private funding?
Simply put, private funding is when the defendant pays for the legal fees with their own money.
Why would people do this when legal aid is available?
The tightening up on the qualifying criteria means that increasingly fewer people are eligible for legal aid. Many people will have to dip into savings or reach out to their family or bank for a loan to cover the costs.
With any service, the costs can vary depending on the calibre of solicitor you instruct. As they say, you get what you pay for.
There are some stark differences beyond the cost which are important to weigh up when deciding on the best approach to take for the most favourable outcome from your case.
Are there any alternate sources of funding?
Insurance funding – some, although not many, insurance policies such as household or motoring policies will cover the cost of a criminal prosecution. It is worth checking.
Why would I choose private funding over legal aid?
The service you receive from opting for private funding over legal aid is more thorough and wider in scope.
Round the clock availability
If you want to have an experienced, senior solicitor at the other end of the phone whenever you need them, you would have to look into private funding. With legal aid, there are tight profit margins. Some cases funded by legal aid are overseen by paralegals who are supervised by a solicitor.
Outside agency assistance
When using legal aid, access to outside agencies such as forensics is very limited. Private funding, however, provides a capability to delve deeper into a thorough investigation. This is especially useful in complex cases where a strong, well-rounded defence is paramount.
Lacking in additional evidence to back up your defence may impact the success of your trial, meaning that you may not get the desired outcome. Having the funds to put into the building of the defence in a multifaceted situation is necessary to get the outcome you are looking for.
Seek advice from a professional
Whatever the scale of the crime, and whatever you may think the available options are, it is wise to consult a solicitor before making any decisions. The severity of the case and the availability of costs will be taken into account by a solicitor who can advise on the best route for you to take with the resources available to you.
In short, you will get a more thorough defence and regular contact from an expert solicitor when you opt to privately fund your case. With legal aid, there is an entitlement to a defence and support but the resources are likely to be a lot slimmer, and the legal professional is likely to be less experienced.
Let us help you to decipher which is the best funding option for you.