LEGAL AID02-Jul-2010 Law Article by: Geoff Harrison | Sydney Criminal Barrister | Sydney Criminal Lawyer | Published 2/7/2010
Geoff is a recognised criminal law practitioner by the Legal Aid Commission of NSW – Geoff has been appointed to the Criminal Law Panel and the Children’s Criminal Law Panel. Hence, Geoff can apply on your behalf or you can request that Geoff be appointed to act on your behalf in the Local Court or Children's Court. Geoff has appeared successfully for a number of Legal Aid clients.
This information is provided as a guide and if in doubt you are encouraged to make application for a grant of legal aid. In most criminal matters the legally assisted person will be asked to pay a contribution towards the cost of running their matter. As to general information about applying for a grant of legal aid – your application will be both means and asset tested. As to your means – your net assessable income (Gross assessable income – allowable deductions) must be less than $318 per week. The maximum amount of the allowable deductions is as follows:
|Deduction||Maximum allowed (weekly amount)|
|Income tax (including Medicare levy)||Income tax paid|
|Housing Costs||Sydney $320 – Other $220|
|Dependant allowance||$100 Per dependant|
|Child Support||$100 Per child|
|Childcare costs||$169 (in order for work or study)|
An applicant receiving a Centrelink income support payment at the maximum rate satisfies the income test if he or she has no financially associated person or any financially associated person is also receiving a Centrelink income support payment at the maximum rate.
As for the asset test - whilst there are a number of exceptions depending upon the nature of the proceedings before the court – generally for local court matters your assets must be less than $1500 however, this does not include matters for committal or where a plea of not guilty has been entered (for these matters your assets must be less than $100). All assets are included in this test except for excluded assets which are as follows:
|Excluded Asset|| Maximum allowed value
|Household furniture||Reasonable value|
|Tools of Trade||Reasonable value|
|Lump sum payments|| May or may not be excluded Depending upon the payment and Circumstances.
|Motor vehicle equity||$15,100|
| Farm of business equity
|Baby bonus||Amount received|
Single application $1,310
Applicant with dependants or financially associated person $2,638
There is a third test applicable to applications for a grant of legal aid namely, an availability of funds test.
If your matter is before the court and your application for Legal Aid has been declined an important provision is s57 of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW) which, provided the conditions are satisfied the court is to adjourn the proceedings until an appeal has been determined by the Legal Aid Review Committee. Such appeals should be lodged within 28 days of the notice of determination.
LEGAL AID COMMISSION ACT 1979 - SECT 57
57 Adjournment of certain proceedings
Where it appears to a court or tribunal, on any information before it:
(a) that a party to any proceedings before the court or tribunal:
(i) has appealed, in accordance with section 56, to a Legal Aid Review Committee and that the appeal has not been determined, or
(ii) intends to appeal, in accordance with section 56, to a Legal Aid Review Committee and that such an appeal is competent,
(b) that the appeal or intention to appeal is bona fide and not frivolous or vexatious or otherwise intended to improperly hinder or improperly delay the conduct of the proceedings, and
(c) that there are no special circumstances that prevent it from doing so, the court or tribunal shall adjourn the proceedings to such date on such terms and conditions as it thinks fit.
 Information sourced from the Legal Aid Commission of NSW Policies and Guidelines.
 Unless there are exceptional circumstances and a discretion is applied.