Legal aid in contempt proceedings at the first instance: applying to the court and eligibility criteria

Defining the ‘court’ concerned and possible parties

For the purposes of section 30, “court” is not defined in any way.  You should give it its usual meaning – any forum conducting judicial proceedings.  Contempt of court may arise at any stage in the proceedings, whether at first instance or at any appellate stage.

The person charged with contempt may be, for example, a party to the proceedings, a witness, a legal or other representative, any person in court or in the court precincts, a person reporting on proceedings.

Manner of application to the court: default form to submit

You must apply to the court in writing and in whatever form the court requires, or in whatever manner the court accepts as sufficient in any particular case.

Unless the court instructs otherwise, you should use the form CRIM/COURTAPP.

Eligibility criteria, first instance contempt: undue hardship and interests of justice tests

Under section 30(1) the court has to be satisfied:

  • undue hardship – after considering the financial circumstances of the person charged with contempt, that meeting the expenses of the proceedings for contempt would cause them or their dependants undue hardship
  • interests of justice – that in all the circumstances of the case it is in the interests of justice to make legal aid available. Section 30 does not identify any factors the court has to take into account in considering the interests of justice.

The court does not have to consider whether other rights and facilities are available to applicants that make legal aid unnecessary, or whether they have reasonable expectations of receiving financial or other help from bodies of which they are members.

Neither the Act nor the regulations specifically empower the court to require the applicant to make a statement on oath about any matter relevant to their application for legal aid.

Requirement on court to intimate decision on application for legal aid

As soon as it decides on an application for legal aid, the court must tell us and the applicant or their solicitor or counsel.

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