Merits tests

The following are the criteria for qualification for Legal Help (Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) Regulations 2013):

(a) it is reasonable for the individual to be provided with legal help, having regard to any potential sources of funding for the individual other than under Part 1 of the Act; and
(b) there is likely to be sufficient benefit to the individual, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the circumstances of the individual, to justify the cost of provision of legal help.

The sufficient benefit test is ‘primarily a test of whether a reasonable private paying individual of moderate means would pay for the legal advice and assistance’ (Ministry of Justice, ‘Lord Chancellor’s Guidance Under Section 4 of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Of Offenders Act 2012’ (June 2014), para 4.2.13). Further information can be found in the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance, including that ‘[t]he emphasis of the test … is on whether to continue work, rather than making an assessment at the start of the case.’ (para 4.2.14).

The following is the criteria for qualification for Legal Representation in Tribunal cases:

it would be reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for the individual to be provided with full representation.

In Mental Health Tribunal cases it would be most unusual for the provision of legal representation to be considered unreasonable.

Guidance documents

  • Eligibility. Legal Aid Agency, 'Lord Chancellor's guidance under s4 LASPO 2012' (27/1/14) — Main headings: (1) Background and Introduction; (2) Delegation; (3) Applications covered by the Regulations; (4) Merits, Costs and Damages; (5) Convention Rights; (6) Forms of Civil Legal Services; (7) Qualifying for Legal Services; (8) Procedure regulations; (9) Mental Health Guidance (Merits Regulation 51) (subheadings: General; Forms of civil legal service; Proceedings and limitations; Mental Capacity Act (MR 52); General; Merits criteria; Lasting Power of Attorney/Advance Decisions) (10) Family; (11) Significant breach of Convention rights; (12) Risk to health or safety in rented home.


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