24 December 2021
The Chief Minister has presented a new Legal Aid Scheme to the States Assembly with a proposed commencement date of 1st April 2022. States Members have four weeks to consider the scheme before this date is confirmed.
The aim of legal aid is to ensure that legal representation is available to all people in Jersey, irrespective of their income or wealth. At present, the legal aid scheme is provided and administered by the Law Society of Jersey.
Under the new scheme, Public/Criminal Law legal aid will receive public funding for the first time. This ensures that the Government of Jersey meets its obligation to ensure that legal representation in criminal cases is available to all members of the community and provides an enhanced criminal legal aid scheme whilst reducing the existing financial burden on the legal profession of providing criminal law legal aid.
In a change from the current scheme, those accessing criminal law legal aid will be able to choose their lawyer from an accredited panel, replacing the current "Tour de Role" arrangements. Criminal law legal aid will be provided on a fixed fee basis, with no payment needed from legal aid clients. Financial eligibility thresholds are also moving from being based on a household, to being based on each individual.
Private/Civil Law legal aid will continue to be funded by the legal profession as at present, with ongoing use of the Tour de Role. Financial eligibility will similarly now be based on an individual and not their household. A 12-month residency test, and a need to be registered with Social Security, will apply for Private/Civil Law Legal Aid, but not for Public/Criminal Law legal aid.
The Access to Justice (Jersey) Law 2019 sets out the process for agreeing Jersey's Legal Aid Scheme. The Law requires the Chief Minister to publish the scheme with the assistance and advice of the Legal Aid Guidelines Advisory Committee. The Guidelines Committee includes representatives of the Government, Law Officers, legal profession, Judiciary and States Assembly. It is chaired by the Judicial Greffier who will be responsible for administering the new scheme.
Full details on the proposed new scheme can be found here.