Legal Aid: What Does it Mean and How Can We Help You?

Bramwell Bate is a proud supplier of legal aid services in both criminal and family law. But what is legal aid, and how can it help you with criminal and family matters?

Legal Aid: An Overview

Legal aid is a government funded loan that supports individuals who are in need of legal services but may struggle to pay legal fees. It is considered a “loan” of sorts, being that you are expected to repay the Ministry of Justice for your legal fees over time. The idea is that everyone should be able to access a lawyer, when necessary, regardless of their financial situation.

Bramwell Bate provides legal aid in both criminal and family matters, meaning we can help individuals on a range of issues. Whether you may be eligible for legal aid depends on a few factors, namely your income, assets, and the type of case you require our help with. The types of cases that can be retained under legal aid include:

Criminal Law:

  • You are charged with an offence where you could be sentenced with six months or more in prison; or
  • You are appealing a conviction or sentence for one of those offences; or
  • You are appearing before the parole board (in some situations).

Family Law:

  • Relationship Property;
  • Protection Orders;
  • Care and Protection of Children; and
  • Adoption.

When you approach us requiring legal aid, we will assist you with your application to the Ministry of Justice. The amount of legal aid you are granted, as well as your requirement to pay that legal aid back, is considered on a case-by-case basis. Once we have received a response from the Ministry of Justice (which generally takes seven working days) we will talk to you about what has been offered, and what terms and conditions apply to your loan.

Upcoming Changes to Improve Accessibility to Legal Aid:

The Government plans to invest over $140 million over the next four years to increase access to legal aid. These changes were announced as part of the 2022 Budget and tackle a variety of aspects of the current legal aid regime which may hinder some people from accessing Government funded legal care. This investment includes:

  • Increasing the income eligibility threshold by 15% from 1 January 2023 and then increasing the threshold by 1.9% per year (for three years)  to keep in line with wage inflation.
  • Removing the $50.00 user charge for civil and family legal aid.
  • From 1 January 2023, the debt repayment threshold (based on your earnings, the property you own, whether you have a partner or dependent children) will be increased to 16.5%. and then a further 1.9% per year (for three years).
  • Interest will no longer be charged on legal aid debt.

These changes will mean that a higher proportion of people will be eligible for legal aid and recipients will have less payment obligations.

Our legal aid providers at Bramwell Bate are pleased to see an increase in access to Legal Aid for clients who need it and look forward to continuing to provide legal aid services to clients throughout Hawke’s Bay. If you require legal aid for matters concerning criminal or family law, please contact one of our legal aid team: