Electronic income

Limit on legal aid for civil cases increased to € 13,000 in annual income

More people will be able to access legal aid services for civil matters, including family matters, after the ceiling for those eligible for free legal service is raised from € 7,000 in annual income to € 13,000.

Legal aid is the provision of legal assistance to low-income people who cannot afford legal representation in court. Currently, people requesting civil legal aid services are required to undergo a means test. Criminal cases are not means tested.

The annual income cap of € 7,000 for eligibility for legal aid in civil cases had not been revised for around 40 years, said director of legal aid services Bruno Zahra.

After taking into account the rate of inflation, the cap was increased, he said, adding that when assessing a legal aid application, the individual’s financial commitments, such as rent and alimony would be taken into account.

Speaking when announcing the changes, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said: “We will be able to reach more people, improve support and expand access to justice.

He also announced a new online application system called LARS – Legal Aid Referral System. This would allow people to apply online, using their electronic identity card, to check whether or not they are eligible for legal aid without having to visit the Valletta offices. The system also allows people, including NGOs, to apply on behalf of others.

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