Documents to Lodge
To lodge an application for legal aid for a client, you should send to the Legal Services Commission ('the Commission'):
The application form
Your client should complete a legal aid application form giving full details of his or her financial situation and that of any financially associated person (including a spouse, de facto partner, company, trust, or anyone else who provides or should provide financial support). The current application form is included in Forms.
If you consider that the case has merit (see Eligibility), you should sign the solicitor's certificate on the last page of the application form.
The Legal Aid Application form must be signed by the applicant. However the Commission is aware that from time to time this may not be possible. Accordingly, it has been resolved that this requirement may be dispensed with in cases where the applicant’s solicitor has no proper opportunity to obtain the signature of the applicant and, in the opinion of the Director, the failure to obtain the client’s signature is due to circumstances beyond the practitioner’s control. Generally, this will be when a matter is before a court and the client is not present.
In such a situation it is still necessary for an application form to be submitted and the practitioner must confirm, when lodging the application form that–
- he or she has properly advised the applicant of the requirement to provide true and correct information and that the applicant has agreed to be bound by the information provided; and
- the information provided on the application form is a correct account of the applicant’s current situation, as told to the practitioner, and the applicant has acknowledged that he or she understands the conditions under which legal aid may be granted or refused.
This practice will be trialled for an initial period of six months.
The solicitor's letter
You should also send a letter explaining the background to the case, and the purpose for which aid is needed. Your letter may make submissions as to your client's eligibility if you wish. For example, in a criminal case, you may wish to address the issue of whether your client is at risk of imprisonment and why; in a family case, it is helpful if you disclose any attempts to resolve the matter thus far (for example, if the parties have tried counselling) and the outcome, and factors such as restraining orders and domestic violence. In criminal cases, you should also enclose a copy of the relevant information/complaint, and outline in which court(s) the matters are to be dealt with. Where there are multiple charges in different courts, practitioners are requested to clearly set out the extent and the nature of the assignment(s) being sought, and the particular courts where the matters are to be heard.
Proforma solicitors' letters
To speed and simplify your requests for aid in certain commonly occurring circumstances in criminal cases, we have devised some proforma letters to be used in requesting a grant or extension of aid. They are in yes/no format as far as possible. They can be filled in by hand if you wish, or put on your word processing system. They will save you the time and expense of preparing letters to us in the ordinary way. The completed form supplies all the information we will need to decide whether your client is eligible for aid in the following situations:
These criminal law proforma letters will of course need to be accompanied by the application and proof of means (in the case of an initial application) and by other supporting documents, such as the judgment in the case of an appeal.
The proforma letters and a guide to their use are included in Forms. Please use them wherever possible. Of course, there may be situations in which they are unsuitable, or you may wish to use your own style of letter.
Attach to the application form copies of:
- all your client's bank statements for the last two months (including statements from building societies, credit unions and like financial institutions)
- those of the financially associated person
- if your client is on a pension or benefit, a copy of a statement of entitlement from Centrelink and a copy of their current pension or health care card
- if your client is working, pay slips for the last two pay periods
- if the financially associated person is working, his or her pay slips for the last two pay periods
- if your client is self-employed, a copy of the last tax return or a profit and loss statement
- if the financially associated person is a company or trust, its financial records for the last tax year.
Please note that:
- if we do not receive the above proof of your client's means, we will not process the application for aid. We will probably send it back.
- if your client is in custody at the time of applying, he or she may be unable to furnish complete financial details immediately. In that case the application should clearly show that he or she is in custody, and supply whatever financial information is reasonably available. Generally, applicants in custody can still arrange for family or friends to assemble the required verification and can still give details of assets.
- if your client is under the administration of the Public Trustee, you will need to obtain the supporting documents from the Trustee before lodging the application. If the matter is extremely urgent, the Trustee should be requested to forward the statements of the managed estate directly to us, and you should attach a copy of your request to the application to indicate that the necessary supporting documents are on their way.
- if for any reason these documents do not accurately portray your client's financial position (for example, your client has just lost their job, or the work is casual and wages have recently been higher than usual), you should point this out in your letter.
- in some cases we may ask for further information or proof, such as records of termination payments, business books, rates notices, etc. If you think we might need this information in a particular case, you should send it in initially so that the application can be processed as quickly as possible.
- you should send with the application copies of relevant documents. For example, in a criminal case, please send a copy of any documents setting out the charges.
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