Thursday, 8 October 2020

FREE LEGAL HELP: ENGLAND & WALES

Here is the latest about free (because you cannot afford to pay for it yourself) legal help for those caught up in civil or family court cases or who just need to know how they stand legally. 

Sometimes you will get advice only and sometimes you will get more such as representation at the hearing, be it at a court or a tribunal. Where the people you go to are restricted in what help they can give, they will refer on to another organisation who may be able to help more. Because of Covid-19 and its financial consequences, advice agencies are currently under great pressure and face-to-face sessions may well not be available. If one organisation cannot fit you in, try another. 'Ere is my contact info.

LEGAL AID   There will be a means test. Advice only on debt, housing, education, discrimination and family. www.gov.uk/civil-legal aid-advice: 0345 345 4345.  There's not much legal aid available for the whole case including representation at court although it is available for some limited cases  - included are family cases where you have been the victim of domestic abuse and local authority care cases involving children - where you have reasonable prospects of success. However, you might just be able to secure legal aid which is ordinarily excluded if you can show it would be a denial of your human rights not to be granted it (for example, you could not follow the proceedings without a lawyer). Difficult to obtain but see

CITIZENS ADVICE - CAB They operate out of 2,500 locations. citizensadvice.org.uk: 03444111444

ROYAL COURTS OF JUSTICE ADVICE BUREAU It is based in London but don't let that put you off. www.rcjadvice.org.uk: 020 7092 3960 Monday to Friday between 2pm and 4pm and first email them a triage form which you can access online. 

ADVOCATE (formerly Bar Pro Bono Unit)  For representation in court but you need to be referred by Royal Courts of Justice Advice Bureau (see above), a solicitor or your Member of Parliament.

LAWWORKS Mainly advice at clinics (some of which may be housed in a law centre). www.lawworks.org.uk to find out your nearest clinic and other points of contact.

LAW CENTRES  Plenty of them and they can usually do more than just give initial advice: they may be able to take on a case where full legal aid is available (see above under LEGAL AID). lawcentres.org.uk

FREE REPRESENTATION UNIT Based in offices in London and Nottingham they represent claimants in social security, employment and criminal injuries compensation tribunals and will go out to venues which are within reasonable travelling distances of their offices.www.thefru.org.uk : 020 7611 9555.

SUPPORT THROUGH COURT (formerly Personal Support Unit) Emotional and practical support including help with court forms. www.supportthroughcourt.org

SHELTER Housing advice. Chatline at http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_help.

FREE HOUSING ADVICE AT COURT For cases for possession in the county court which are mainly between landlord and tenant and mortgage lender and borrower, free legal advice at the court will be available for the tenant and borrower even though it has not been sought earlier. The adviser  may also be able to speak in court for the tenant or borrower concerned. This advice will be available for what will now usually be a review hearing when attempts will be made to get parties to agree some compromise or possibly refer the case to mediation but you will not see the judge on this day and the landlord or lender should also be present for discussions or remotely available. If the case has not settled on the review date, a later substantive hearing will be listed (at least 28 days later) and advice at court will again be available, as before.

INITIAL ADVICE FROM A SOLICITOR  Many solicitors' offices will give initial advice to see whether you have a good case and how you can go about bringing or defending it and- what it may cost you if legal aid is not available. Typically, this advice will be for thirty minutes and free. 

NO WIN, NO FEE AGREEMENTS These are for bringing a claim (not a family case) where you pay your solicitor and any barrister involved a success fee (nor more than 25% of your compensation in a personal injury case) if you win and nothing if you lose. Good game and the majority of solicitors will be prepared to act for you on this basis.

DAMAGES BASES AGREEMENTS  A bit like NO WIN, NO FEE AGREEMENTS except you pay the lawyer a cut of the compensation. 

INSURANCE  You may hold an insurance policy that covers legal advice and/or representation for a host of topics. Check all you policies, even property and household contents jobs.

LEGAL SERVICES ORDER For financial remedy applications in matrimonial proceedings, if you cannot afford to pay a lawyer and cannot reasonably raise the money to do so but your opponent can afford it, then the court can order your opponent to shell out for your own lawyer: if not for the whole of the case, for part of it.

GOOD LUCK!