Legal aid and its role in the UK

Not everyone in the UK can afford to take organisations to court when they feel they have been wronged, which is where legal aid comes in.

As a result of the specialised skills that people in the legal system possess, their time tends not to come for free. While this is okay for major corporations and wealthy individuals with money to spare, it can be difficult for people on lower incomes who find themselves in need of legal counsel.

For these people, there is the option of legal aid, a system that is overseen by the Ministry of Justice and benefits from an annual budget of about £2 billion.

By using UK legal services, people can estimate approximately how much they could be liable to pay, whether they win or lose a civil or criminal case. This type of estimate can be useful for people who are not sure whether to launch a claim or not, as they can reassess how strong their argument is and what they may stand to pay if they lose.

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There are a number of conditions that must be met for a person to qualify for legal aid. The amount they are given by the government depends on their financial circumstances, what type of case it is and how much help is actually needed.

Only certain kinds of legal case qualify for the system, such as welfare benefit, clinical negligence, public law and debt. There are a variety of ways in which the state helps those in need of legal representation, ranging from simple advice on how to find a lawyer to actually appearing in court.

It may be that people have some help paid for by the government and the rest they must pay back – this is all means-tested by the Ministry of Justice. The aim is to give people who cannot afford it the chance to be fairly represented in a legal contest.

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