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FREE LEGAL AID SCHEME EXTENDED

The District Court free criminal aid scheme, which has so far been restricted to solicitors, is being extended to include barristers.

The decision follows a ruling by the Supreme Court that defendants should be entitled to representation by counsel in serious or complicated cases.

Under the new scheme, a defence solicitor must apply in writing for a barrister. The District Judge must be satisfied that the defendant is too poor to afford counsel, and that the gravity and complexity of the case, or other exceptional circumstances, make it essential in the interests of justice that the defendant be represented by a barrister.

Defendants may have to provide a statement of means before being granted a legal representation certificate. The judge’s decision on the application is final and may not be appealed.

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