Yes, for a criminal matter. Legal aid is automatic and there is no means test. For non-criminal matters, children are not always entitled to legal aid. Similarly, a child who is the subject of care proceedings will be automatically entitled to legal aid. However, otherwise there are different rules for different services. For general advice and family disputes, if a child applies for legal aid the means of the parent are also taken into account (unless there is a conflict of interest between parent and child). However for representation in non-family cases (for example, a clinical negligence claim on behalf of a baby or child injured in hospital) children are assessed on their own means and so are almost certain to be financially eligible. All cases remain subject to merits criteria however so that only cases with reasonable prospects of success can be funded. To find out more about legal aid contact the Legal Services Commission (www.legalservices.gov.uk).
Thanks to Andrew Keogh, criminal defence lawyer and editor of CrimeLine for his help with this section and an earlier version which appeared in A Parent’s Guide to the Law by Jon Robins (LawPack , 2009). We’re grateful also to Kim Evans for her help.