Applications for civil legal aid for proceedings where we are a party

When applying for civil legal aid for judicial review of a decision by us, you should take care to address the legal basis of the application.  You should not treat an application for judicial review as simply a further review of, or appeal against, our decision on an earlier application.

The application should:

  • Specify the ground on which the judicial review is to proceed – for example, that the decision was illegal, or irrational or that there was some procedural impropriety
  • Identify and address the specific reasons for the challenge

If the challenge is that the decision we took was ultra vires, you must set out in detail the way in which we have acted beyond our powers.  If it is suggested that we have used our discretion improperly, you must explain why.  If it is suggested that we have had regard to irrelevant factors or failed to take account of relevant factors, identify these factors clearly.

Where it is suggested that there has been a procedural impropriety, which might include a breach of natural justice, you must be specific and identify what aspect of the procedure you consider improper or in what way you consider a breach of natural justice has occurred.

In an application based on the Human Rights Act 1998, your client should address which right under the European Convention on Human Rights we are alleged to have breached and the basis for this.  Details of supporting case law should be provided.

If relying on irrationality or “Wednesbury unreasonableness”, the test to be satisfied in a judicial review is a high one and the application for legal aid must demonstrate that probable cause exists.  The exacting nature of the test is reinforced in the case of K -v- SLAB, 1989 SCLR 144 and in the case of McTear -v- SLAB, 1995 SCLR 611

Cases where we are a party: external referral for final decisions

We are not the final arbiter of whether legal aid should be granted for proceedings in which we are the opponent.  We will refer it, to the Sheriff for Lothian and Borders at Edinburgh for final consideration [section 14(4) Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986].  In doing so, we may submit any observations we want to make on the application.

  • The sheriff must then decide whether your client has probable cause and whether it is reasonable that your client should receive legal aid. The sheriff’s decision is final.  Where the sheriff decides in favour of you client, we would then assess their financial eligibility as usual and consider whether any grant of legal aid should be subject to any condition [section 14(2)].

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