Detailed guide: Work out who qualifies for criminal legal aid

Legal Aid Agency

January 20
11:00 2020


The rules about who qualifies for legal aid are set out in Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

For procedures in checking eligibility for criminal legal aid, read Criminal Legal Aid (General) Regulations 2013.

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) criminal legal aid manual sets out who qualifies for legal aid.

To determine whether someone qualifies for criminal legal aid you need to consider:

  • merits the interests of justice test (IoJ)
  • means financial eligibility of your client

LAA guidance on the Consideration of Defence Representation Order Applications

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Merits: interests of justice

IoJ considers the merits of the case for example, a persons previous convictions, the nature of the offence and the risk of custody to determine if an applicant qualifies for legal aid. The more serious the charge or possible consequences for your client, the more likely that their case will qualify for legal aid (Crown Court trials are deemed to automatically satisfy this test).

Widgery criteria

The interests of justice test determines whether a client is entitled to legal aid based on merits. As part of the test you must consider the Widgery critera and decide which of the following applies to your clients case:

  • its likely Ill lose my liberty
  • Ive been given a sentence thats suspended or non-custodial: if I break this, the court may be able to deal with me for the original offence
  • its likely that Ill lose my livelihood
  • its likely that Ill suffer serious damage to my reputation
  • a substantial question of law may be involved
  • I may not be able to understand the court proceedings or present my own case
  • I may need witnesses to be traced or interviewed on my behalf
  • the proceedings may involve expert cross-examination of a prosecution witness
  • its in the interests of another person that Im represented
  • any other reasons

Find out how the Legal Aid Agency makes a determination on an application for criminal legal aid in the Criminal Legal Aid (Determinations by the Court and Choice of Representative) Regulations 2013.

Make an appeal

Your clients case may not meet the IoJ test.

You or your client can make an appeal if you feel the decision is incorrect.

Applications to appeal grant of legal aid refused on interests of justice criteria, including any new information you would like considered, should be emailed to and we will consider the appeal administratively within 2 working days.

For Appeal to Crown Court cases, the LAA will put the IoJ appeal before the court to review, and then notify you of the courts decision

For other cases, the LAA will make an administrative decision and notify you. If you are still not satisfied with the decision you can ask LAA to put before the court to review.


Your client must be financially eligible to qualify for legal aid as set out in The Criminal Legal Aid (Financial Resources) Regulations 2013.

Means testing considers your clients financial position based on:

  • household income
  • outgoings
  • capital and equity

Read further guidance and use the criminal legal aid eligibility calculator.

Crown Court trial

The means test also determines if your client will be liable for any defence costs if theyre appearing in a Crown Court.

If your client has an annual household disposable income of 37,500 or more they will not be eligible for legal aid in a Crown Court trial. If their disposable income is above 3,398 but less than 37,500, theyll have to make an income contribution towards their costs. If your client has above 30,000 in capital and equity and is convicted they may have to contribute towards any remaining balance against their final defence costs.

Title Purpose
The Civil and Criminal Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services) (Legal Persons) Regulations 2013 Sets out capital and income tests required for legal persons to qualify for criminal or civil legal aid.
The Criminal Legal Aid (Remuneration) Regulations 2013 Sets out remuneration payable to solicitors and advocates.
Criminal Legal Aid (Contribution Orders) Regulations 2013 Sets out means testing for criminal cases in the Crown court. Includes provisions on recovery of contributions.
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Consequential, Transitional and Saving Provisions) Regulations 2013 Makes required changes to other legislation. Sets out how the LAA treats work started pre-commencement.
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Consequential, Transitional and Saving Provisions) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 Adds transitional arrangements for civil cost procedures in legally aided cases.
The Legal Aid (Disclosure of Information) Regulations 2013 Allows providers to disclose certain information to the LAA.

Make an application

Read detailed guidance on how to apply for criminal legal aid or go straight to the CRM14 eForm.


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