Legal aid - Sweden
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What are the costs of a trial and who should normally pay them?
What is legal aid?
Can I benefit from legal aid?
Can legal aid be obtained for all disputes?
Is there a specific procedure for emergencies?
Where can I obtain an application form for legal aid?
Which documents should I attach to my request for legal aid?
Where should I register my request for legal aid?
How will I be informed of whether or not I am eligible for legal aid?
If I qualify for legal aid, what should I do?
If I qualify for legal aid, who will choose my lawyer?
If I qualify for legal aid, will this cover all the costs of my trial?
If I qualify for partial legal aid, who will pay the other costs?
If I qualify for legal aid, will it cover any review I might make following the trial?
If I qualify for legal aid, can it be withdrawn before the end of the trial (or even after the trial)?
If I do not qualify for legal aid, can I appeal against this decision?
1. What are the costs of a trial and who should normally pay them?
The court proceedings themselves are free of charge in Sweden with the exception of an application fee, which is currently SEK 450 (approximately € 47).
If you qualify for legal aid, the state pays the application fee.
2. What is legal aid?
In civil cases there are two kinds of legal aid:
- legal advice and
- legal aid.
Both are governed by the Legal Aid Act (1996:1619).
3. Can I benefit from legal aid?
Everybody - natural persons, associations, companies etc. - can get legal advice in all legal matters.
Legal advice can be provided by a lawyer or junior barrister at a lawyer's office. Up to two hours' legal advice can be provided and it may be split into several sessions. There is a charge for legal advice, currently SEK 1 162 (approximately € 120). If the person obtaining the advice has insufficient financial resources this charge can be reduced by half. If the person obtaining the advice is a child, he or she does not usually need to pay any fee. If the fee is reduced, the lawyer will receive the balance from the state.
Legal aid is only available to natural persons, i.e. companies, associations, etc., are not eligible. Estates of deceased persons, however, do qualify for legal aid in certain circumstances. Nationals of all EU Member States have the same rights to legal aid as Swedish citizens.
Legal aid can be granted in most legal matters (see question 4 below).
To qualify for legal aid you must meet certain conditions:
- You must have received at least an hour's legal advice.
- Your income must not exceed a financial threshold, currently set at SEK 260 000 (approximately € 27 375). When the applicant's income is estimated, his/her economic situation as a whole is taken into account, for example, any child maintenance expenses, property or debts.
- You must need the help of a lawyer over and above the legal advice provided and it must not be possible to meet this need in any other way.
- Depending on the nature and significance of the case, the value of the object in dispute and the overall circumstances, it may also be considered reasonable for the state to contribute to the costs.
- If you have - or should have had - legal protection insurance this will be used first.
4. Can legal aid be obtained for all disputes?
As stated under 3 above, legal advice is available in all legal matters.
You can, for example, obtain information and advice about:
- rules on marriage and other forms of
- rules on divorce
- maintenance payments
- wills and inheritance
- purchases and contracts
As mentioned under 3 above, legal aid can be granted in most legal matters but there are some exceptions. It cannot, for example, be granted in matters where a Public Defence Counsel or a Public Counsel may be appointed. If you have been the victim of a crime in some cases a "counsel for injured parties" may be appointed (see the Counsel for Injured Parties Act 1988:609). Legal representation of this kind is completely free of charge. One of the tasks of the counsel for injured parties is to help you to bring a civil action in connection with the crime, e.g. a claim for damages. If a counsel for injured parties has been appointed for you, you cannot also be granted legal aid.
In some cases there have to be special grounds for legal aid to be granted - for example, proceedings taking place abroad or cases where the value of the claim is clearly not going to exceed SEK 18 950 (approximately € 1195).
5. Is there a specific procedure for emergencies?
There is no specific procedure for situations which require the immediate processing of an application for legal aid. However, general procedural principles require that a case or matter should be handled as quickly as possible.
6. Where can I obtain an application form for legal aid?
The National Courts Administration has prepared a simple application form with instructions on how to fill it in. Copies of the form can be obtained either from the Legal Aid Authority or from the Courts. You can also ask the National Courts Administration
for a form.
7. Which documents should I attach to my request for legal aid?
As stated in 6 above
, various bodies including the National Courts Administration can provide you with a simple application form which includes instructions on how to fill it in. For further information, please contact the National Courts Administration.
Among other things, a legal aid application should include information about the judicial matter to which the application refers, whether the proceedings might be held abroad, whether you have had legal advice on the case, whether you have, or have had, legal protection insurance which covers the matter, and information on your financial and other circumstances. This information should be entered on a form which is available from the National Courts Administration.
No other forms need to be attached. It might be advisable, however, to attach any documents you might have to support the information you have given.
8. Where should I register my request for legal aid?
Requests for legal aid should be sent to the court or authority responsible for examining your application.
If the case or matters of relevance to the judicial proceedings are to be heard in court, it is the court which must examine your request for legal aid. Otherwise it is the Legal Aid Authority which decides whether legal aid will be granted or not.
9. How will I be informed of whether or not I am eligible for legal aid?
The Legal Aid Authority or the court which examines your request for legal aid will inform you in writing about the decision taken by the Authority or the court respectively.
10. If I qualify for legal aid, what should I do?
If you are granted legal aid a legal aid counsel will be appointed at the same time. You should therefore contact him or her for further information.
11. If I qualify for legal aid, who will choose my lawyer?
A lawyer or junior barrister or any other suitable person can be appointed your legal aid counsel. If you have proposed a suitable person yourself, he or she can be appointed if it will not significantly increase the costs of the case or if there is no other particular reason for not doing so.
12. If I qualify for legal aid, will this cover all the costs of my trial?
Once legal aid has been granted the state pays the following costs:
- Legal aid counsel's fees up to a maximum of 100 hours, unless the court decides otherwise.
- Reasonable costs for submitting evidence in a general court, the Labour Court and the Commercial Court.
- Costs of an investigation which is reasonably required to safeguard your rights, up to a maximum of SEK 10 000 (approximately € 1 053).
- The cost of mediation in accordance with Section 17 of Chapter 42 of the Code of Judicial Procedure.
- Application and handling charges and the cost of enforcement.
Any expenditure which is not covered by legal aid is your responsibility, therefore. However, it is possible to obtain compensation for these expenses from the opposing party if you win the case.
If you are granted legal aid you will have to contribute to the costs via a legal aid charge. This charge is made up of a percentage of the cost of your legal aid counsel. The system of charges is made up of six levels, depending on your income; these are expressed in fixed income brackets. The percentages for the various brackets range from 2% to 40%. The income bracket in which you are placed, and therefore what percentage you must pay, is decided on the basis of your financial situation. Your annual income, maintenance liabilities and assets are used to calculate your economic basis. You have to pay the legal aid charge continuously to your legal aid counsel as the costs are incurred.
13. If I qualify for partial legal aid, who will pay the other costs?
If you are granted legal aid you have access to all the benefits of the Swedish legal aid system (see 12 above
). It is therefore not possible to receive legal aid for one particular part only.
On the other hand, it is possible, in addition to the legal aid system, to obtain financial assistance for certain expenditure in connection with a legal action, specifically travel expenses to get to the court and expenses for a witness summoned to appear in court. Thus, if you are a party to a case or legal matter and have been summoned to appear before the court, you can have your
travel and subsistence expenses paid by the state if they are considered to be reasonable (Chapter 11, Section 6 of the Code of Judicial Procedure). The state may also, if it is reasonable having regard to your financial circumstances, pay
compensation to a witness for necessary costs for travel and subsistence and for loss of time (Chapter 36, Section 24 of the Code of Judicial Procedure). Compensation for travel and subsistence expenses in connection with an appearance in court is not available for legal persons.
14. If I qualify for legal aid, will it cover any review I might make following the trial?
15. If I qualify for legal aid, can it be withdrawn before the end of the trial (or even after the trial)?
When the legal proceedings are considered closed, you will of course stop receiving legal aid. As a rule, legal aid must also stop if your legal aid counsel has worked 100 hours. However, the court can decide that the legal aid must continue.
In certain cases, legal aid can also come to an end prematurely - for example, if you do not pay your legal aid charge or if you have provided incorrect information and the legal aid would not have been granted if the correct information had been given. Another reason why your legal aid might end early is if your legal aid counsel has worked 100 hours and a court has not decided that the legal aid should continue.
16. If I do not qualify for legal aid, can I appeal against this decision?
Both you and the National Courts Administration can appeal against a decision not to grant legal aid. If the decision was taken by a court it can be appealed against in the same way as any other decision. When the court notifies you of its decision in writing it also tells you how you can appeal. If it is the Legal Aid Authority which took the decision any appeal must be lodged with the Legal Aid Board.
Further information about the Swedish legal aid system, and application forms, can be obtained from the National Courts Administration at the following address:
S-551 81 JÖNKÖPING
Tel. + 46-36-15 53 00
Fax: + 46-36-16 57 21
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