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If someone has a problem about a civil matter, the person or organisation they have the claim against is the 'Opponent'.
Where someone applies for civil legal aid to take or defend a case in court, unless there is a reason not to, we inform the opponent about the application so that they can give us their views about the application.
We do not do this if a solicitor grants advice and assistance. This is a different type of legal aid that helps the person resolve the case without going to court.
If you are an opponent in a case where someone has applied for civil legal aid, you can read our Information for Opponents leaflet which tells you important information about civil legal aid and what it means for you.
Please select any of the following questions to find out more about possible issues affecting opponents:
If your opponent has applied for civil legal aid, you can tell us of any concerns you have about their application or give us relevant information. This is called 'making representations'. You can do this even after legal aid has been granted. You do not need a solicitor to make representations on your behalf, you can do it yourself.
You can send your views to us in a letter, within 14 days of our telling you about the application (or within 28 days if you live outside the UK), to: Civil Applications Department, Scottish Legal Aid Board, 44 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh EH1 7SW.
We cannot decide who should win a case – that is the job of the courts. However, you should let us know if you believe that any or all of the following apply:
- the applicant is not eligible financially for legal aid
- there is no legal basis for the case
- it is unreasonable to use public funds for the case.
We will use the information you give us to help decide whether we should grant, refuse or withdraw the applicant’s legal aid. Even if we refuse or withdraw legal aid, the applicant may still wish to take the case to court privately.
If you want to give us information about the applicant's financial eligibility, it is important to note that we assess eligibility on income for 12 months after the date of the application. For capital, the applicant should tell us about any significant change in circumstances throughout the case.
Where a person is receiving advice and assistance (the initial form of legal aid available to help resolve a dispute before going to court), the solicitor assesses their eligibility based on their financial position over the 7 days prior to the application. The same process for making rpepresentations does not exist for advice and assistance but if you believe that the person may not have declared income or capital to us, you should write to the Advice and Assistance Department at the above address.
I think someone has applied for legal aid in a case that affects me, but I haven’t received any information about it from the Board. What should I do?
You should phone the Board's Civil Applications Department on 0131 226 7061. Normally, if you are the opponent in the case, we tell you about the application. Occasionally we don’t do this – for example, if we don’t know your address, or if the solicitor or applicant has given us reasons why telling you would be inappropriate, such as in cases of domestic violence.
However, there are restrictions on what we can tell you about the application if you contact us – see the section below about whether we can tell you if your representations were successful.
If someone has applied for legal aid and told us you are their opponent, we will normally send you or your solicitor (if you have one):
a letter telling you that your opponent has applied and that you have the right to tell us your views
a copy of the applicant’s statement in which they tell us about the nature of their case.
If possible, out of fairness to the applicant, we need to discuss your views with them. If there is an important reason why you do not wish us to do so, please tell us - but this may mean we will not be able to investigate your representations fully.
When you write to us please state clearly whether you give permission for us to show them to the applicant. We may wish to investigate further, and ask you for more information.
We will tell you we have received your representations. We may contact you again if you have not told us we can pass on the information to the applicant, or if we need more information from you. However, we will not routinely update you on our consideration of your representations.
Please remember that it can take a long time for consideration of representations to be completed, especially if we ask the applicant for their comments. We will usually tell you within 32 working days of receiving an application for legal aid whether we have granted it to the applicant. This excludes any periods where we have asked the applicant or their solicitor for further information and we are waiting for a response.
When people apply for legal aid, we have to keep confidential the information they give us. By law, we can only talk about an application with the applicant or their solicitor, unless the applicant has given us permission to do otherwise.
This means we cannot tell you anything that the applicant or their solicitor has said to us that led us to grant legal aid without their permission, despite your representations. The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act does not entitle you to get information about another person's legal aid application from us.
We may grant legal aid to raise a court action against you, or to defend an action you have raised. If the person with legal aid wins the case, you may have to pay the costs of their case as well as your own.
We may seek to get the costs of their case back from you. You would also have to deal with the consequences of losing the case.
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