A scheme under the Legal Aid Act 1988 whereby the payment of legal costs was made out of public funds for those unable to meet the costs themselves, provided that the person qualified under the financial and merits tests laid down under the scheme. There were separate provisions for civil and criminal cases. Civil legal aid had two components: legal advice and assistance (sometimes known as the green form scheme) and legal aid. Under the former, payment was made to qualified lawyers under the scheme who provided legal advice and help preliminary to litigation. Under legal aid, payment was made for the provision of legal advice and assistance at all stages of litigation, including appeals. In criminal cases, the court determined whether or not legal aid was granted and made a legal aid order if it considered legal aid desirable in the interest of justice.
The legal aid scheme was replaced in April 2000 by the Community Legal Service. Under this new scheme of legal aid and assistance, the green form scheme was replaced by the legal help scheme and legal aid was replaced by full representation; there are, in addition, intermediate levels of service.