Go to content
 

Policies

11. Contributions

11.1. Initial Contributions

Introduction

Legal Aid NSW has the power to determine an initial and final contribution amount.

Legal Aid NSW imposes an initial contribution in most legally aided matters. Initial contributions are not voluntary and payment of the contribution is a condition of the grant of legal aid. This means a legally aided person must pay the contribution amount imposed or legal aid may be terminated as the person will have failed to comply with a condition of the grant. The power to determine an initial contribution is under s.36 of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW). The initial contribution is based on a person’s income and assets at the time legal aid is granted.

Initial contributions are payments that go towards the costs of providing the legal service to the legally aided client. It is important that we collect contributions from clients who can afford to pay. Initial contributions are an integral part of the revenue of Legal Aid NSW, and as such, ensure we can continue to provide legal representation to socially and economically disadvantaged people across New South Wales.

All legally aided persons need to be aware at the time aid is granted that the initial contribution must be paid.

Legal Aid NSW must determine the final contribution amount a legally aided person has to pay towards the total costs of providing the legal service under the grant of aid. The power to determine a final contribution is under s.46 of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW). These contributions are imposed either at the end of a matter or if legal aid is terminated.

Legal Aid NSW also has the power to defray expenses incurred under s.33 of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW).

11.1 Initial contributions

Initial contributions are contributions determined under s.36 of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW).

Legal Aid NSW will determine an initial contribution in every matter unless it is an exempted matter.

The initial contribution is a contribution requested at the beginning of a grant of legal aid and payment of the contribution by the due date is a condition of the grant of legal aid.

See Contributions Guideline 5.1.1.

11.1.1 Initial contribution calculated by the Means Test

Initial contributions are calculated using the Means Test.

The Means Test:

  • assesses whether an applicant qualifies for legal aid and, if so,
  • the amount of contribution they will be required to pay.

See Means Test policy 7.8 for scale on calculating contribution on the applicant’s net assessable income.

See Means Test policy 7.13 for scale on calculating contributions on the applicant’s net assessable assets.

See also Contributions Guideline 5.1.

11.1.2 Exercising a discretion under the Means Test to vary the initial contribution

Legal Aid NSW can exercise discretion to vary the initial contribution amount by increasing or reducing the amount calculated under the Means Test at the time legal aid is granted.

See Contributions Guideline 5.2 on considerations that need to be taken into account when exercising discretion to reduce or waive the initial contribution.

See Contributions Guideline 5.1.5 on paying by instalments.

See Contributions Guideline 5.1.6 on payment methods available.

11.1.3 Once imposed, can an initial contribution be reduced?

Once imposed, an initial contribution can only be reduced where Legal Aid NSW is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances.

See Contributions Guideline 5.2 on exercising discretion.

Note: an initial contribution can be reduced where:

  • Legal Aid NSW is satisfied that no legal service has been provided, or
  • the client’s matter is undertaken by the Aboriginal Legal Service.

Only Legal Aid NSW officers authorised under the Delegation Instrument can reduce the contribution.

11.1.4 Once imposed can an initial contribution be increased?

Once imposed an initial contribution can be increased in circumstances where Legal Aid NSW is satisfied the legally aided person’s financial circumstances have changed.

See Means Test 7.8 for scale on calculating contribution on the applicant’s net assessable income.

See Means Test 7.13 for scale on calculating contributions on the applicant’s net assessable assets.

11.1.5 Can a legally aided person appeal against an initial contribution?

A legally aided person can appeal to the Legal Aid Review Committee (LARC) against the amount of the initial contribution imposed except in Local Court criminal matters.

There is no right of appeal to LARC against the decision to impose an initial contribution or the amount of the contribution in Local Court criminal matters.

For all other appeals see Policy on Legal Aid Review Committee Appeals.

See Contributions Guideline 5.2 on exercising discretion to reduce or waive an initial contribution.

11.1.6 Can initial contributions be refunded?

The only time a legally aided person will be entitled to a refund is where the contribution amount paid exceeds the costs and expense of providing the legal service (calculated at the appropriate Legal Aid fee scale).

The refund amount will be the difference between the amount that has been paid and the costs of providing the legal service.
Note: the minimum $75 contribution will never be refunded.

What if the client pleads guilty in a Local Court defended matter?

Where a legally aided person has paid a minimum contribution for a Local Court defended hearing and subsequently pleads guilty, that client will not be entitled to have the contribution refunded.

11.1.7 Can legal aid be terminated for failure to pay the initial contribution?

Yes. Where a person fails to comply with a condition of the grant, then legal aid will be terminated. A legally aided person, who fails to pay the initial contribution, has failed to comply with a condition of the grant of legal aid.

See Termination Policy on terminating legal aid where a legally aided person fails to pay the initial contribution.




Date Last Published: 23/12/2016

Back to top