Legal aid to be available for those earning €13,000 per year

Legal aid services were only available for those earning €7,000 in annual income

Legal aid services for civil cases will be made available for all those receiving an annual income of €13,000, up from the €7,000 cap already in place.

Government will be introducing two further initiatives to widen the availability of legal aid in Malta. These include an increase in annual income capping for legal aid eligibility and a digital platform to access legal aid resources.

“We’re expecting to reach more people like this and give more aid to such vulnerable groups,” Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said.

Legal aid allows the state to provide legal assistance to people who are unable to afford proper representation in court.

The capping will only concern legal aid in civil cases, as criminal cases are not subject to means testing.

Bruno Zahra, director of Legal Aid Services, said that the €7,000 income capping was last reviewed 40 years ago. “These things need to conform with modern times,” he said.

The new capping was drawn up after accounting for inflation. When assessing whether someone is eligible for legal aid, the agency will factor in the person’s financial commitments, including rent and child maintenance.

“If a person earning €15,000 in annual income applies for legal aid, but they pay €2,000 in rent per year, they would still be eligible for assistance,” Zahra explained.

Apart from wider accessibility, the Justice Minister announced a new online application system called LARS (Legal Aid Referral System) that will allow people to apply for aid from their home or through a third-party.

This system will allow people to check if they are eligible for legal aid without having to go to the Valletta offices. A person can apply for legal aid themself, or can apply on behalf of someone else.

An e-ID account will be needed to apply, but Zahra said there are plans to provide log-in opportunities using Facebook, Google, and other means.