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For some individuals, legal aid is provided at no cost.  Others may, at the end of their case, have to repay some or all of the costs.  Since 1 April 2013, repayment arrangements have operated under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. 

In civil cases, individuals who keep or retain money or property (for example in claims for financial provision on divorce) may, at the end of their case, have to repay some or all of their legal aid costs.  The Legal Aid Agency will make a charge or claim ─ known as the statutory charge ─ on the individual’s money or property.  This may be done at the conclusion of the case or (sometimes) several years afterwards.   Regulations made under the 2012 Act allow for certain exceptions and partial exceptions to the statutory charge; all or part of it may be waived where its enforcement would cause “grave hardship or distress” to a legally-aided party or would be “unreasonably difficult because of the nature of the property”.

In criminal cases, a capital contribution order may be made where the director of legal aid casework determines that an individual should contribute towards the cost of their legal aid.  There is no scope to waive such an order.  Where there is a debt and an individual informs the collection agency that they are unable (for example) to release equity to repay the debt, the collection agency will apply to have a charge placed on the property, so that the debt can be paid at such time as the property changes hands.  The debt will attract interest.

This note describes how the statutory charge may be levied.

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