Availability of legal aid for contempt of court proceedings

Requirement to make applications: legal aid not available automatically

Legal aid in contempt proceedings is not automatically available.  You must apply to the court for proceedings at first instance, and to us for an appeal arising from a finding of contempt.  The court or us must be satisfied on both means and merits.

Types of contempt proceedings for which legal aid is available: sections 30(1) and 30(3) of the 1986 Act

Proceedings at first instance

Under section 30(1), legal aid is available where a person is liable to be dealt with for contempt of court during or in connection with any proceedings.


Under section 30(3), legal aid is available for an appeal against a decision of a court in proceedings for contempt of court.  This includes a petition to the nobile officium of the High Court of Justiciary or of the Court of Session.

Separation of first instance and appeals contempt work: distinct proceedings for legal aid purposes

Under regulation 3, for legal aid under section 30, the proceedings below are each treated as distinct proceedings:

  • Any proceedings for contempt which arise during or in connection with any other proceedings. (Those proceedings include any remit of the person in contempt from the district court to the sheriff court under section 15(5) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.)
  • Any appeal against a court decision in the proceedings for contempt referred to in paragraph (a).

In practice, we expect separate legal aid applications for the distinct proceedings.  We cannot make, or extend, a single grant of legal aid to cover, both contempt proceedings at first instance and any appellate proceedings arising from a finding of contempt.

Definition of legal aid under Section 30 (contempt)

Legal aid under section 30 consists of representation by a solicitor and, where appropriate, by counsel.  It includes all assistance usually given by a solicitor or counsel in the steps preliminary to, or incidental to, proceedings for contempt, or any appeal in connection with such proceedings.

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