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If you get legal aid, you may have to pay something towards your legal costs if:
- your income, savings and other capital (items of value that you own) are above a certain level (this is called a 'contribution')
- you keep or gain money or property at the end of your case (this is called 'clawback')
- you lose your case (you might have to pay your opponent's costs)
Your solicitor will tell you about the potential costs you might need to pay at the start of your case.
In most criminal cases, you won't need to pay anything towards the cost of your case. Your solicitor will tell you about the exceptions to this, when you may need to pay something direct to them.
Making payments towards the cost of legal advice
If you need legal advice from a solicitor (advice and assistance), they should tell you at the start of your case:
- if you need to pay anything towards your legal costs (you pay contributions direct to your solicitor, who might let you pay in instalments)
- whether you might have to pay out any money you keep or gain
Making payments towards the cost of representation at court
If you're applying for legal aid (help with the costs of representation at court) your solicitor will tell you if it's likely you'll have to pay anything. But it's the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) who will tell you:
- if you need to pay anything towards your legal costs (you pay contributions to SLAB)
- how long you can take to pay
Normally payments are made in instalments. If you need to pay out of savings, you'll pay it in a lump sum.
You don't usually pay anything towards your legal costs if you've been granted criminal legal aid. However, you may need to pay a contribution towards the cost of getting legal advice.
You may get some of your contribution back if:
- the case costs less than you have paid
- SLAB get back some of the costs from your opponent
- your circumstances change
If you lose the case
If you lose the case, you may be asked to pay some or all of your opponent's costs. Legal aid won't cover this, but because you are getting legal aid you can ask the court to reduce the amount you have to pay.
If you can't afford your payments
If you're worried you can't afford your payments, get in touch with your solicitor or SLAB as soon as you can. It may be possible to reach an agreement to pay instalments which are affordable to you.
If your financial situation changes
You must tell SLAB and your solicitor if your financial situation changes. This is because changes may affect whether you have to pay and, if so, how much.
For example, a change in your income or outgoings could mean that:
- you must start making monthly payments
- your monthly payments rise or fall
If you keep or gain money or property
If you keep or gain money or property at the end of your case, you may have to pay some or all of your legal costs. This is called 'clawback'.
Your solicitor will:
- tell you at the start of the case whether clawback could apply
- keep you informed of any changes in your case that could affect this
- tell you how much you may have to pay
You'll only need to pay enough to cover the difference between the cost of the case and:
- any expenses your opponent has paid
- any payments you have made
If you keep or win your home
If you keep or win your home at the end of your case, you won't need to sell it to pay clawback. You'll either:
- pay clawback in instalments
- delay paying clawback until you sell your house in the future
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