[The Gazette's] article about the reintroduction of the means test for criminal legal aid in the magistrates court on 2 October (see (2006) Gazette, 7 September, 3) incorrectly gives the impression that the means test will be bureaucratic.  [It] also incorrectly claim the application form is 26-pages long.

The forms have been designed so that they are straightforward to complete. Applicants in receipt of benefits will only have to complete one ?tick box? question about these benefits.

More information will be required from other applicants. Income details for those in employment extend to one page ? this will cater for a substantial percentage of applicants. No applicant will be expected to complete 26 pages, even in the most extreme scenario where there is a self-employed applicant with a private pension and maintenance income and other income and children and childcare costs.

The form was produced in conjunction with representative bodies, including the Law Society. The Plain English Campaign has also provided advice on the form.

Clients will be responsible for completing the means section of the form. We have, however, produced an information pack to assist solicitors in helping their clients do so, where necessary. We have also produced a pocket guide to the means test that will allow solicitors to make a swift assessment of their client?s likely eligibility. An on-line calculator will also be available shortly at www.legalservices.gov.uk.

Derek Hill, director, Criminal Defence Service, Legal Services Commission, London

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