Legal Aid Act 1974

Citation1974 c. 4
JurisdictionUK Non-devolved


Legal Aid Act 1974

1974 CHAPTER 4

An Act to consolidate certain enactments relating to legal aid and legal advice and assistance.

[8th February 1974]

B e it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

I Legal Advice and Assistance and Legal Aid so far as not available under Part II

Part I

Legal Advice and Assistance and Legal Aid so faras not available under Part II

Legal advice and assistance

Legal advice and assistance

S-1 Persons eligible for advice and assistance.

1 Persons eligible for advice and assistance.

(1) Advice and assistance to which this section applies shall, subject to and in accordance with the provisions of this Part of this Act, be available in England and Wales for any person if—

( a ) his disposable income does not exceed 24.50 a week, or

( b ) he is (directly or indirectly) in receipt of supplementary benefit under the Ministry of Social Security Act 1966 or of family income supplement under the Family Income Supplements Act 1970 ,

and (in either case) his disposable capital does not exceed 250.

(2) Regulations may provide that there shall be substituted—

( a ) for the weekly sum specified in subsection (1) above, such other weekly sum, not less than 20, as may be prescribed by the regulations;

( b ) for the capital sum so specified, such other capital sum, not less than 125, as may be so prescribed.

S-2 Scope and general conditions of advice and assistance.

2 Scope and general conditions of advice and assistance.

(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, and to any prescribed exceptions or conditions, section 1 above applies to any oral or written advice given by a solicitor or, if and so far as may be necessary, by counsel—

( a ) on the application of English law to any particular circumstances which have arisen in relation to the person seeking the advice, and

( b ) as to any steps which that person might appropriately take (whether by way of settling any claim, bringing or defending any proceedings, making an agreement, will or other instrument or transaction, obtaining further legal or other advice or assistance, or otherwise) having regard to the application of English law to those circumstances,

and applies to any assistance given by a solicitor or, if and so far as may be necessary, by counsel to any person in taking any such steps as are mentioned in paragraph ( b ) above, whether the assistance is given by taking any such steps on his behalf or by assisting him in taking them on his own behalf.

(2) Notwithstanding anything in subsection (1) above, section 1 above does not apply to any advice or assistance given to a person in connection with any proceedings before a court or tribunal—

( a ) at a time when a legal aid certificate issued to him in connection with those proceedings is in force, or

( b ) in the case of criminal proceedings, at a time when a legal aid order made in respect of him for the purposes of those proceedings is in force.

(3) Without prejudice to subsection (2) above, section 1 above does not apply to any assistance given to a person by taking on his behalf any step in the institution or conduct of any proceedings before a court or tribunal, or of any proceedings in connection with a statutory inquiry, whether by representing him in those proceedings or by otherwise taking any such step on his behalf (as distinct from assisting him in taking such a step on his own behalf), except—

( a ) in the case of civil proceedings before a court or tribunal, any step which consists only of negotiating on his behalf with a view to a settlement of a claim to which the proceedings relate, and

( b ) any step consisting of such assistance as is mentioned in subsection (4) below.

(4) Section 1 above also applies to any assistance given by a solicitor to any party to proceedings (whether criminal or civil) before a magistrates' court or to proceedings before a county court, whether by representing him in those proceedings or otherwise in connection with them, where the assistance is given in compliance with a request which is made to the solicitor by the court or given in accordance with a proposal which is made by the solicitor and approved by the court and which (in either case)—

( a ) is so made or approved at a time (whether at or after the beginning of the proceedings) when the solicitor is present within the precincts of the court, but

( b ) is not made or approved at any such time as is mentioned in paragraph ( a ) or ( b ) of subsection (2) above.

(5) Except as expressly provided by this Part of this Act or by regulations made under it,—

( a ) the fact that the services of counsel or a solicitor are given by way of advice or assistance shall not affect the relationship between or the rights of counsel, solicitor and client or any privilege arising out of such relationship; and

( b ) the rights conferred by this Part of this Act on a person receiving advice or assistance shall not affect the rights or liabilities of other parties to any proceedings or the principles on which the discretion of any court or tribunal is normally exercised.

(6) In this section ‘legal aid certificate’ means a certificate required, in accordance with regulations made under section 20 below, to be obtained as a condition of entitlement to legal aid; ‘legal aid order’ means an order made under section 28 below; and ‘statutory inquiry’ has the meaning assigned to it by section 19(1) of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1971 .

S-3 Financial limit on prospective cost of advice and assistance.

3 Financial limit on prospective cost of advice and assistance.

(1) Where a person seeks or receives any advice or assistance, then if at any time (whether before or after the advice or assistance has begun to be given) it appears to the solicitor from whom it is sought or received (or, in the case of advice or assistance sought or received from counsel, it appears to the solicitor instructing counsel) that the cost of giving it is likely to exceed the limit applicable under subsection (2) below—

( a ) the solicitor shall determine to what extent that advice or assistance can be given without exceeding that limit, and

( b ) shall not give it (or, as the case may be, instruct counsel to give it) so as to exceed that limit except with the approval of the appropriate authority.

(2) The limit applicable under this subsection is 25 or such larger sum as may be substituted for that sum by regulations.

(3) For the purposes of this section the cost of giving any advice or assistance shall be taken to consist of such of the following as are applicable in the circumstances, that is to say—

( a ) any expenses (including fees payable to counsel) which may be incurred by the solicitor or his firm in, or in connection with, the giving of the advice or assistance;

( b ) any charges or fees (not being charges for disbursements) which, apart from section 4 below, would be properly chargeable by the solicitor or his firm in respect of the advice or assistance; and

( c ) in the case of advice or assistance given by a solicitor employed by the Law Society in employment to which section 16 below applies, any charges or fees (not being charges for disbursements) which, if the solicitor had been employed by a firm of solicitors, would, apart from section 4 below, have been properly chargeable by that firm in respect of the advice or assistance;

and in paragraphs ( b ) and ( c ) above ‘charges for disbursements’ means charges in respect of such expenses (including fees payable to counsel) as are mentioned in paragraph ( a ) above.

(4) In paragraph ( b ) of subsection (1) above the reference to the approval of the appropriate authority shall, in relation to the giving of advice or assistance in any particular case, be construed as a reference to approval given in accordance with the regulations by such committee or other person or body of persons as, in accordance with the provisions of the regulations and of a scheme, is the appropriate committee, person or body for determining whether approval for the purposes of that paragraph should be given in that case.

(5) In subsection (4) above ‘scheme’ means a scheme for the time being in force under section 15 below, and ‘the regulations’ means any regulations for the time being in force under section 20 below.

S-4 Contributions from persons receiving advice or assistance.

4 Contributions from persons receiving advice or assistance.

(1) In respect of advice or assistance given to any person (in this section and section 5 below referred to as a ‘client’), the client shall not, except in accordance with the following provisions of this section, be required to pay any charge or fee.

(2) Where a client's disposable income exceeds 12.50 a week and he is not (directly or indirectly) in receipt of supplementary benefit under the Ministry of Social Security Act 1966 or of family income supplement under the Family Income Supplements Act 1970 , subsection (1) above shall not exempt him from liability to pay, in respect of the advice or assistance, charges or fees up to, but not in the aggregate exceeding, such amount as is applicable to him in accordance with the following provisions of this section.

(3) The amount applicable to a client for the purposes of subsection (2) above, where his disposable income falls within a range specified in...

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