Applying for Legal Aid
When services beyond simple legal advice are needed, you must apply for legal aid. A grant of legal aid means we will pay a lawyer to act for you. However, we will require you to make a contribution towards your legal costs depending on how much you can reasonably afford to pay. We will also require you to comply with some Conditions of Legal Aid.
You can apply for legal aid directly to us, or if you wish to be represented by a particular private lawyer, through that person's office. Where possible, we will grant that request. If you have no particular lawyer in mind, we will arrange someone.
If you are unable to complete the online application, you may download the Application for Legal Aid Form.
To apply for aid you must fill in the application form and send it to a legal aid office together with proof of means. Usually, this will be a copy of a pension card (or, if working, two pay slips), and copies of bank statements for the last two months. These must be sent in with the application. If not, the application will simply be returned to you.
The cover of the application form need not be sent back. You should keep it because it explains the main conditions of legal aid.
If legal aid is granted, you will have to pay a contribution towards your legal costs. All successful applicants must pay a contribution to their legal aid. The minimum contribution for a grant of aid is $70 for family law matters and $50 for all other matters, but it can be more depending on your finances.
Refusals of Aid
If legal aid is refused, you will be told why in a letter. Where aid is refused there is normally a right of appeal.
There are some cases for which we do not generally give legal aid. Often, this is because some other avenue of help is available. Also, we will not pay for cases where we think you can afford your own representation, or where the chances of success are poor.
The High Court has held that even a person charged with a very serious crime has no absolute right to legal representation, although in some specifically defined circumstances the person may be entitled to a permanent stay in the prosecution, as long as he or she remains legally unrepresented [ see R v Dietrich 1992 CLR 147]. If steps have not been taken to obtain assistance and the Court refuses an adjournment, a defendant might have to conduct her or his own defence without a lawyer.
In South Australia, the Criminal Law (Legal Representation) Act 2001 (SA) requires the Legal Services Commission to provide representation to a person charged with a serious offence, whether they would ordinarily be eligible for a grant of legal assistance under the Legal Services Commission Act 1977 (SA) or not.
A serious offence is defined as ‘an indictable offence under the law of the State that is to be tried in the Supreme Court or the District Court, and includes any summary offence that is to be tried together with such an offence in the same proceedings’.
Under this Act, the Commission can set conditions upon the person needing representation, which must be met or agreed to before representation is provided.