Legal Aid in Jersey
Updated 23 December 2013
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 are unable to obtain 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 down loaded here. Please note this document is in Microsoft Word format. If you do not have Word or Open office installed on your machine you may obtain a free Microsoft Word reader from www.microsoft.com or a free copy of Open Office from www.openoffice.org/.
Notes for Legal Aid Applicants
Legal Aid in Jersey is granted to individuals who cannot otherwise afford to pay the full cost of legal representation, and who need that representation.
The Legal Aid Scheme in Jersey is mostly funded by the legal profession. The lawyer appointed is permitted to charge a reasonable fee, but must act within the Legal Aid Guidelines set down by the Law Society (see above).
Making an Application for Legal Aid
To make an application for Legal Aid you will need to collect an application form from the Legal Aid Office at Collas Crill, 40 Don Street, St Helier, JE1 4XD, or from the Citizens Advice Bureau. The application form can also be downloaded from the Jersey Law Society website: www.jerseylawsociety.je
Legal Aid is administered by the Acting Batonnier, Advocate Dionne Gilbert.
Contact details for the Legal Aid Office are as follows:-
A mutually convenient appointment will be made once you have returned the completed application form together with any relevant papers, in particular a charge sheet if you have been charged with a criminal offence.If you need Legal Aid for a child, the parent with whom the child lives should come to the appointment with them.
If you application for Legal Aid is successful The Legal Aid Office will write to you to advise you of the name of the law firm which will be acting for you.
Am I entitled to Legal Aid?
The Acting Batonnier will consider your application and will decide whether to issue a Legal Aid Certificate.
Legal Aid is normally only given to people who live in Jersey. You may be eligible if you live elsewhere and have been charged with a criminal offence, or need legal advice in relation to a child who does live here.
Legal Aid is not available for every type of dispute or problem. The Acting Batonnier will decide whether your case, in accordance with the Legal Aid Guidelines, is one for which Legal Aid is available.
In deciding whether to grant Legal Aid, The Acting Batonnier will decide whether your case is, at first sight, strong enough to merit Legal Aid being given.This is a "merits test". Special rules apply to Legal Aid which is given in certain typrs of cases for example personal injury claims.
The Acting Batonnier will also decide whether you are financially eligible for Legal Aid. This is done on the basis of the financial information in your application form and is based on your household income and capital. This includes the income and capital of your spouse or partner. Children who need Legal Aid are assessed on their parents' financial position and the parents will meet any fees charged.
Different guidelines will be used by the law firm that acts for you when deciding what you will be billed.
Can I choose my lawyer?
No. The lawyer appointed to help you will be the next lawyer on the rota which is administered by the Legal Aid Office. Only in unusual circumstances will this not be the case.
If the lawyer originally appointed cannot act for you then a new lawyer may have to be appointed.
What wil I have to pay?
Your lawyer is entitled to charge you a reasonable fee in accordance with the Legal Aid guidlines. The guidelines include quite detailed rules about what you can be charged. These rules take in to account your household income and capital as well as any settlement obtained in your case.
The lawyer acting for you must provide you with a detailed engagement letter which should set out how you will be billed and provide an estimate of your legal fees. You must keep your lawyer up to date with any change in your finances, and, if the fee position changes, your lawyer should in turn keep you up to date.
You may be asked to make payments on account of fees provided that the amount you are asked to pay is fair. If you do not believe it is fair, you must raise this immediately with the law firm acting for you and then with the Legal Aid Office.
If you have a complaint about your lawyer, discuss this first with the law firm that has been appointed. If this does not resolve it, raise your complaint with the Acting Bâtonnier.
If you wish to complain about a fee note issued to you, you have the right to seek adjudication on those fees from the Acting Bâtonnier. If you wish to do this, you must contact the Legal Aid Office as soon as possible or you may lose the right to complain.
Can my certificate be taken away?
Yes, in certain circumstances. It is impossible to list every example, but reasons could include:
A failure to disclose financial information or evidence in reply to a reasonable request; or a failure to provide complete or accurate information.
Where it becomes clear that your case does not have enough merit.
If you fail to give instructions to your lawyer or refuse to accept reasonable advice.
Where your conduct is such that you become undeserving of assistance in the view of the Acting Bâtonnier or Bâtonnier. This could include being abusive or violent towards a lawyer or staff member.
Can I appeal?
If you are unhappy with any decision made by the Acting Bâtonnier, or their staff, you have the right to ask for the issue to be referred to the Bâtonnier. The current Batonnier is Advocate David Cadin.