Funding YOUR CASE
Facing prosecution for a criminal offence is a worrying experience. As a defendant, you will usually have the opportunity to represent yourself should you wish to do so, but most people prefer to instruct a lawyer to take on this potentially difficult role. We can help when you are facing investigation or prosecution in the following ways:
At the Police Station
Everyone who is interviewed by the police under caution is entitled to free, independent advice.
If you are arrested, you should ensure that you ask for us personally when you are booked in at the police station. We have a 24 hour a day rota all the year round, and will able to advise you initially of your rights over the telephone. We will also attend at the police station to advise you in person before any interview takes place, and will remain with you throughout the interview process.
This same right applies even if you attend at the police station as a volunteer to be interviewed as a suspect. If this happens (or if the police propose interviewing you at home or some other location) you should contact our office on 01482 324818 (01482 502541 outside office hours) as soon as possible so that we can make the necessary arrangements to attend the interview with you.
Some other agencies (such as the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs and the RSPCA) also have the power to interview people suspected of committing a criminal offence under caution. Whether a suspect is entitled to free independent advice in this situation will depend largely on the individual’s financial circumstances.
We can advise you whether you will be entitled to free advice under the Legal Aid Agency’s Advice and Assistance scheme or if you would have to pay privately to be represented.
At the Magistrates’ Court
You may qualify for representation at the Magistrates’ Court if the offence is serious enough to justify the grant of legal aid AND your income is low enough to pass the means test.
If you are granted legal aid in the Magistrates’ Court you will not have to pay anything further towards the costs of your defence, although various other costs will be payable if you plead guilty or are found guilty after a trial.
If you do not qualify for Legal Aid you will have to pay privately if you want to be represented. In certain circumstances the Duty Solicitor can assist unrepresented defendants at Court on the day, but s/he may be busy with other matters. In addition, that assistance can be limited to advice only where a defendant is not in custody.
If you have to pay privately to be represented, we will ask you to pay an amount on account towards the expected costs of your defence. In some cases, we may be able to agree to deal with your case via a fixed fee. In such cases, typically straightforward road traffic matters or other relatively minor criminal allegations, we may be able to offer you representation from around £300 (plus VAT and disbursements) for a simple guilty-plea hearing at either Hull or Beverley Magistrates’ Court that concludes at the first hearing.
If we agree to deal with your case by way of a fixed fee we would require payment of the fixed fee in full by an agreed date before the relevant hearing. Payment on account for disbursements (such as expert medical reports) will be required in full before any such expenditure is incurred.
If you would like to discuss how to fund your case on an obligation-free basis, please contact us on 01482 324818.
In the Crown Court and Appeal Courts
Most individual defendants in the Crown Court will qualify for Legal Aid, although a means test applies. Depending on your means you may need to pay a monthly contribution for up to six months to qualify for Legal Aid. Such contributions are refundable if you are subsequently acquitted.
We can advise you as to the likely costs if you fund your case privately. We may even be able to agree a fixed fee to deal with your case. By way of an indication, the defence costs in a typical case proceeding to the Crown Court for a contested trial may amount to several thousands of pounds.
As above, any privately-funded case will require payment in full before the work is carried out. The amount of the final bill will be subject to VAT at the appropriate rate together with payment in respect of any disbursements (plus VAT).
Defence Costs Order
If you have to fund your Court case privately you may be entitled to claim back part of the costs if you are acquitted or the prosecution is dropped. The rules about when such costs can be claimed back are complicated and we will advise you further about this if appropriate.
You should be aware that, since 1 October 2012, the amounts allowed for Defence Costs Orders are calculated at Legal Aid rates. This means a successful defendant will see only a small proportion of his or her costs returned or set against the invoice for the work carried out by the firm on their behalf. In the Crown Court it is only possible to obtain a Defence Costs Order if the defendant applied for legal aid but was determined to be financially ineligible.