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1. An Introduction to Legal Aid NSW

1.1. Legal Aid NSW core policies for granting legal aid

Legal Aid NSW eligibility policy sets out the types of matters for which legal aid is available, as well as the Means Test, the Merit Test, the Availability of Funds Test and the Unpaid Contributions Test.

1.2.1 Types of legal matters for which legal aid is available

The policies set out the types of matters for which legal aid is available in criminal, family and civil matters. Each area of law also includes the policies for Legal Aid NSW specialist areas of work.

The policies relating to the types of matters are covered in the following chapters:

1.2.2 Means Test

The Means Test is used to assess an applicant's financial position and accordingly, the amount of contribution the legal aid applicant will be asked to make towards the cost of providing the legal service.

1.2.3 Merit Test

The Merit Test requires Legal Aid NSW to consider, among other criteria, whether the applicant's matter has reasonable prospects of success and whether providing legal assistance will benefit an applicant and promote the public interest.

1.2.4 Availability of Funds Test

Legal aid will only be granted if Legal Aid NSW considers that there are sufficient funds available for the applicant's matter. This policy is set out in the Availability of Funds Test chapter.

1.2.5 Other policies relevant to the grant of legal aid

The other policy chapters in Policy Online need to be considered once Legal Aid NSW has decided whether to grant legal aid or not.

  • The Contributions chapter sets out how Legal Aid NSW expects legally assisted persons to contribute to the cost of assisting them and how these costs are recovered.
  • The chapter relating to appeals deals with the process of appealing to the Legal Aid Review Committees against a decision not to grant legal aid or to impose conditions on a grant of aid.
  • The chapter on Representation sets out Legal Aid NSW policy on allocating legal work between private legal practitioners and in-house legal practitioners, including the Public Defender's Office.
  • The chapter on Costs and Fees sets out some of the requirements and powers under the Act that relate to costs, for example the power Legal Aid NSW has to defer payment of costs to private practitioners in certain circumstances or the power to direct a legally aided person to pay costs recovered to Legal Aid NSW.
  • The chapter on the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW) (the Act) provides commentary on the Act, how certain provisions are interpreted and relevant case law that has discussed provisions of the Act.

Date Last Published: 09/01/2017