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Review Your SQE 1 Practice Records

Examination Timing: 00H25M43S

Michael Thompson, a resident of Sheffield, is facing charges of theft in the magistrates' court and is considering applying for legal aid. He has an annual income below the initial means test threshold for legal aid and no disposable capital. His wife, Jessica Thompson, earns £100,000 per year. They live in a leased property with a monthly rent of £2,000. Additionally, Michael has an adult son from a previous marriage, who is financially independent and lives nearby.


Given these circumstances, which of the following best describes Michael’s eligibility for criminal legal aid based on the means test?

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Your selected option: B

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The correct answer is A. In assessing eligibility for criminal legal aid in England, both the 'means test' and the 'merits test' are used. The means test considers the total household income and capital to determine if the applicant qualifies for aid. In Michael's case, while his personal income is below the threshold for legal aid, his household income includes his wife's substantial earnings of £100,000 per year. This combined income exceeds the threshold for free legal aid under the means test guidelines. Therefore, the total household income places them above the financial eligibility limit for legal aid. The financial status of Michael's adult child is irrelevant as he is not a dependent and does not contribute to or depend on Michael’s household income.


Key Learning Points:

  • Household Income Assessment: Legal aid eligibility often considers total household income, not just the income of the individual applying.

  • Dependents and Household Composition: Only dependents who are part of the household’s financial structure affect legal aid assessments.

  • Disposable Capital: Applicants with low personal income but high household income or substantial disposable capital typically do not qualify for legal aid.

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