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OFSI amends Legal Aid General Licence

Counter-terrorism general licence amended

On 20 May 2021, HM Treasury amended the general licence relating to legal aid for counter-terrorism regimes.

More information about the general licence can be found on the Counter-terrorism Licensing Policy page.


Licences authorise certain activities or types of transaction that would otherwise be prohibited by sanctions legislation. In addition to issuing licences relating to a specific person, the Treasury may also issue general licences, which authorise otherwise prohibited activity by a particular category of persons (who fall within the licence criteria).

The overall objective of the licensing system for terrorism designations is to strike an appropriate balance between minimising the risk of diversion of funds to terrorism and respecting the human rights of designated persons and other third parties.

The Treasury only grants licences where there is a legitimate need for such activities or transactions to proceed and where they can proceed without giving rise to any risk of terrorist finance. This helps to ensure that the sanctions regime remains effective, fair and proportionate in its application.

Licensing derogations

Licensing derogations vary according to the applicable regime. Under the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida (United Nations Sanctions) (EU Exit) regime, licences may only be issued in respect of basic and extraordinary expenses. This mirrors the UN Security Council Resolution which they implement. Under the Counter-Terrorism (International Sanctions) (EU Exit) regime and the Counter-Terrorism (Sanctions) (EU Exit) regime, the Treasury has a broader discretion to grant licences.

Licence conditions

In order to license in a proportionate manner whilst mitigating the risk of terrorist financing, the Treasury may also attach conditions to licences. Licence conditions apply safeguards to ensure that funds or economic resources can only be made available to designated persons in a way that protects against terrorist financing risks. This allows the granting of licences that the Treasury might otherwise not be able to grant.

The conditions the Treasury applies to counter-terrorism regime licences reflect two broad policy objectives:

  • to ensure that designated persons do not have access to large amounts of cash, which can be more easily diverted to terrorist activity
  • to ensure that there is an audit trail to address terrorist finance risks and that the Treasury can monitor compliance with the terms of the licence and identify if any breaches of the relevant legislation have occurred

General Licences

In addition to issuing licences relating to a specific person, the Treasury may also issue general licences, which authorise otherwise prohibited activity by a particular category of persons (who fall within the licence criteria). General licences can be used without making an application to OFSI, although they do carry a mandatory reporting requirement to OFSI if they are used.


This licence permits the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) to make payments to solicitors representing a designated person where the LAA has assessed that the individual is eligible for legal aid, and for those funds to be applied by the solicitors to meet the legal costs incurred in the course of advising and representing the designated person.

No funds may be made directly available to a designated person under this licence.

Applicants should note that Treasury licences do not determine entitlement to receive specific funds, goods or services. For example, the general licence above covering legal aid does not determine entitlement to legal aid. Entitlement to legal aid in the UK remains a matter for the LAA, and other authorities in devolved nations. The licence simply means that where a designated person is entitled to legal aid the provision of those funds will not be a breach of sanctions legislation.

This general licence is issued under, and only applies to, the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida (United Nations Sanctions) (EU Exit) regime, the Counter-Terrorism (International Sanctions) (EU Exit) regime and the Counter-Terrorism (Sanctions) (EU Exit) regime.

Transitional provisions

Extant licences that were issued by OFSI for counter-terrorism designations will generally continue to remain valid until they expire or are revoked. On 11 January 2021, the Treasury revoked 3 general licences which related to the provision of insurance and the payment of legal fees by third parties. These may no longer be used, and future applications relating to insurance policies and the payment of legal fees by third parties will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Where a payment is no longer covered by a general licence, you should contact the Treasury to apply for an individual licence.

The Treasury revoked and replaced the general licence relating to legal aid.

Individual licence applications

For new individual licence applications or amendments, applicants should write to OFSI at setting out the full facts and details of the licence needed.

Licensing for other regimes

Details on the Treasury’s approach to licensing for other sanctions regimes can be found in our general guidance


General Licence Legal Aid

OFSI Counter-Terrorism Licensing Policy page

Categories: Legal Aid Licenses OFSI Updates


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