For several years now, Rose Colley, Family Law Partner of Viberts was part of the team, negotiating changes to Jersey’s legal aid system.
The system had been in place for many decades but with no financial contribution from the Government and with Jersey lawyers shouldering the whole cost as a result.
The existing system was deficient in that those receiving legal aid had no choice at all as to which lawyer they were allocated to. Change needed to happen, and the result is that from the 1st of April 2022 legal aid in Jersey has entered the 21st century.
For those who are allocated a legal aid certificate for a criminal matter, there is now a panel of over 30 specialist criminal advocates who they can choose from. Anyone who does not wish to choose their advocate will have one allocated to them from this panel and the criminal scheme is now funded. Viberts have four accredited advocates on the panel available to people receiving criminal legal aid.
Family law matters are still not funded by the Government and will continue to be allocated as under the old scheme. This means that for those who still qualify for legal aid for family law matters, they will not be able to choose their lawyer. However, the financial eligibility to qualify for this type of legal aid has changed and where there are no dependent children, legal aid is very restricted.
Rose says that Viberts recognises that many cannot afford full private client rates and therefore they have developed a completely new product for those with limited incomes and capital called ‘Family Aid’. This is designed to provide an affordable solution for those who will no longer qualify for legal aid and who would really benefit from expert legal advice.
‘Family Aid’ at Viberts is available to anyone who earns a gross income of £50,000 or less and has capital of less than £100,000 (excluding pensions but including any equity in a property) for all types of family law advice.