2. The case merits test for Civil Legal Aid

To qualify for Legal Aid, the applicant needs to go through the case merits test. The Director of Legal Aid needs to be satisfied that the applicant has reasonable grounds for taking or defending the proceedings.

To this end, the applicant must provide all the information relevant to his case. In the course of assessing the merits of an application, the Director of Legal Aid may obtain information from other sources, including the opposite parties in the case. For example, it may be necessary for him to obtain a transcript of the court proceedings or records of decisions or medical records.

Apart from the legal merits of the applicant's case, the Director of Legal Aid must also be satisfied that it is reasonable that the applicant should be granted Legal Aid. For example, Legal Aid may be refused if the opposite party has no valuable assets or cannot be located, so that any judgment obtained cannot be enforced in practice. Legal Aid may also be refused if no reasonable person will pay out of his pocket to retain a lawyer to deal with the case due to its nature or the fact that only a trivial advantage would be gained from it.

There are, however, cases where the benefits to be obtained cannot be measured in purely monetary terms. When dealing with such cases, apart from objectively and carefully assessing whether the likely benefit will be sufficient to cover the costs that may be incurred in the proceedings, the Director of Legal Aid will also take into account the importance of the case to the applicant in deciding whether to grant Legal Aid.

Top