Legal aid for criminal defence
All advocates in the court system are independent of the state and are a part of some independent business. This ensures that your representative is independent of the state which is bringing the prosecution against you. The question therefore arises as to how they will be paid.
Legal Aid (Representation Order)
The provision of a solicitor at the police station is always covered by legal aid regardless of a person’s financial means.
Legal aid in the courts is by way of a representation order. The system at present is all or nothing; if your means are below a set level then the representation is paid for in full. There is no provision for cases to be part funded by legal aid and part by contribution from the defendant.
We are making applications for representation orders every day and can advise if you are financially eligible. Contact us to assess your circumstances.
Two stage test for legal aid
The first stage is the seriousness of the offence. The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has delegated the grant of legal aid to Her Majesties Court Service (HMCS).
The applicant has to show the court that it is in the interest of justice that a representation order is granted. This is decided on the seriousness of the allegation and the effect on the applicant.
As an example, if someone with countless previous convictions for shop theft is charged with one minor shop theft, then the court may well decide that it isn’t in the interests of justice to grant an order. If the applicant has no previous convictions and a conviction would result in the loss of good character then the court may well grant representation.
We will advise you on completing the application to the court.
Will I get first class representation on legal aid
The representation you get will be no different to that which you would get if you were paying privately. The same solicitors do both legal aid and privately funded work, as do the barristers we would brief on your behalf.
Funding a defence case privately
For some cases, even cases where the result may impact severely on the applicant, such as Drink Driving, the court are unlikely to grant a representation order, regardless of means. This may change in cases where the alcohol level is very high, but if your job depends on having a driving licence even a low reading can spell disaster.
If you have been charged with a road traffic offence, legal aid is unlikely to be available. The means testing of legal aid in the Magistrates court means that some fairly serious charges will not be covered by legal aid.
In these cases we can advise of the likely cost of representation. We will also keep you updated of how much the case will cost as it progresses through the system. Many cases can be concluded in one hearing so the quantification of cost is straight forward.
How do we assess our costs
- The charge
The charge may be relevant to how complex the case will be. Some fraud cases can be very complex even where the value is low. Most motoring cases are straight forward, however some can be complex. We will consider the case and discuss this with you when we have seen the prosecution case which we will obtain from the CPS.
- Your instructions
You may accept that you are guilty of the offence and want us to minimise the damage by mitigating your case. Alternatively there may be a defence that involves research and the interview of witnesses. Whatever the scenario we will only undertake work on your case after we have discussed it with you.
- Complexity of the case
This is the major factor in determining the cost of a defence. It would be misleading to say that the complexity can always be assessed at the outset. During the case matters may arise that will effect how the case is prepared. We will discuss with you the importance of such things to the case as a whole and say how much that particular item will cost to resolve. The overall principle is that it is your case and you should retain control of every aspect of it especially the cost.
Follow this link to read information on classification of cases and how this affects which court you will be in.