As of Monday 1 October 2012 the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 s 61 is in force, meaning the Supreme Court is now able to make an order for costs in favour of a specific charity that funds pro bono representation. Previously, when the successful party had free representation and so technically had no costs, the unsuccessful party was able to avoid making any contribution. The new system will apply to new cases coming from English and Welsh courts and costs will be awarded to The Access To Justice Foundation, a charity that distributes resources to free legal advice providers.

This legislation has brought the Supreme Court into line with other courts dealing with civil matters in England and Wales, which are governed by similar provisions under the Legal Services Act 2007 s 194. When tabling the amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act in the House of Lords Lord Pannick QC argued that there was no reason why the valuable power of ordering costs to go to charity when the unsuccessful party had an unfair advantage should not be extended to the Supreme Court, particularly when many cases that appear before the Court involve pro bono assistance. The motion was supported by the Supreme Court justices and the Supreme Court users’ group. The press release also states that pro bono costs in Scotland and Northern Ireland are currently under review.