We know that the last thing you want to think about when facing criminal prosecution is how to pay for the right defence team.
At Conspiracy Solicitor we recognise how worrying this can be, so we aim to give you all the information you need and assist you in getting the funding right. What is right for one person might not be right for another, so it is important to look at every case individually. The means of funding differ according to a defendant’s circumstances and according to the stage the case is at.
The information below offers a general guide, but the most important thing is that you get the right advice. We’re always happy to discuss these issues with a potential client, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Funding Police Station Representation
If you are arrested by the Police, Customs or SOCA you will be entitled to free legal advice and assistance at a Police Station or place of detention. You will also be entitled to free advice and assistance if you attend for an interview under caution as a volunteer.
This free legal advice is not means tested and can be provided by a Duty Solicitor or by your own solicitor. We recommend that you come to us straight away.
Free Police Station Advice
- Free advice in the police station
- Ask the police to contact us
- Bird and Co Solicitors, Grantham
If you have been bailed to attend the police station on a date in the future, which is common in large and protracted investigations, then get in touch with us before you are due to return. We will contact the police to ascertain whether you will be interviewed, and if so we will be able to attend with you, again free of charge to you.
If you have already had free advice in relation to an investigation from another solicitor then you may have to pay privately for further advice from a different solicitor. If you are potentially in this position then contact us and we can discuss your options.
In the Magistrates Court
If you are prosecuted for an offence or offences before a Magistrates Court you can apply for legal aid (these days it’s called a Representation Order from the Criminal Defence Service) to fund your defence. The application for funding is in two distinct parts, a means test and a merits test. You must pass both to get legal aid. If you get legal aid then it is free and there is no financial contribution to make in the magistrates court. A contribution may have to be made by you, depending on your means, if your case is later transferred to the Crown Court.
We will help you complete the legal aid form and will discuss the answers with you.
The merits test is based primarily on the seriousness of the case. In simple terms, if there is a real chance of you going to prison if convicted then you will pass the merits test. Other factors are taken into account, such as the complexity of the case and whether the Prosecution are relying on expert evidence. We are skilled in assessing the merits of cases and ensuring that the right factors are outlined in your application for funding.
The means test is a financial eligibility test. Only those who are financially eligible are entitled to Legal Aid in the magistrates court. If you earn over the threshold you won’t be able to qualify for public funding. An eligibility calculator can be found online.
When you apply for legal aid at a magistrates court, if the case passes the Interests of Justice (merits) test you automatically qualify for free legal aid if you:
- are under 18
- receive specific state benefits, which are:
- Income Support
- Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance
- guaranteed State Pension Credit
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
The table below gives an indication as to who may be eligible for legal aid following a means test in criminal proceedings.
|Total Gross Household income||Applicant||Applicant & Partner||Applicant & Child (aged 5)||Applicant, partner & child (aged 2)||Applicant, partner & two children (aged 8 and 12)|
|£15,000||Depends on outgoing||Pass||Pass||Pass||Pass|
|£19,000||Depends on outgoing||Pass||Depends on outgoing||Pass||Pass|
|£22,325||Fail||Depends on outgoing||Depends on outgoing||Pass||Pass|
|£25,000||Fail||Depends on outgoing||Depends on outgoing||Depends on outgoing||Pass|
|£29,000||Fail||Depends on outgoing||Fail||Depends on outgoing||Pass|
|£37,000||Fail||Fail||Fail||Depends on outgoing||Depends on outgoing|
|£43,500||Fail||Fail||Fail||Fail||Depends on outgoing|
The Household (adjusted) income is the total of the your & your partner’s gross income, which is then weighted to take into account the family circumstances, so:
- If Household income < £12475 = automatically passes
- If Household income > £22325 = fail in Mags (income contribution in Crown)
If Household income is between the two then a full assessment is required to take into account household outgoings.
If you fail the means test and your case is in the magistrates’ court, you will not be given legal aid and will be expected to pay for your costs privately. However, if your defence is successful you may be able to recover a proportion of this from central funds, up to the rates legal aid would have paid.
In the Crown Court
If you are facing proceedings in the Crown Court the means test will determine the amount you will need to contribute towards your defence costs. This could be from your income, your capital or a combination of both. If you are found not guilty, any payments made will be refunded with interest. However, you still have the right to choose to decline legal aid and pay for your legal costs privately.
In broad terms your income is taken into account in deciding the amount you have to contribute while the case is going on. If you do not supply the evidence to enable this to be assessed you will have to pay the maximum contribution, and the Criminal Defence Service enforce unpaid amounts as a debt due to them. At the end of your case your capital may also be taken into account for an additional contribution.
In some cases your contributions for legal aid might be more than your private defence would have cost, so in some cases it may be more prudent or economical to pay privately. This is because as a result of changes in the law you can no longer claim a refund of your private costs in the Crown Court (unlike the situation in the magistrates’ court). If you are eventually found not guilty and have paid privately, you cannot claim Crown Court legal costs back from the Ministry of Justice. However, you can reclaim legal aid contributions if you succeed at trial.
We are happy to accept instructions for privately funded work. Whilst many clients will wish to apply for legal aid, some may not be eligible or would prefer to fund their own legal costs.
We operate primarily on an hourly rate however we are prepared in most cases to look a providing a quotation for a fixed fee. We recognise that it is easier for you if you can predict what you are likely to be required to pay.
We offer fixed fees for most types of road traffic prosecutions. Please contact us for details.
Our charges attract VAT at 20% plus any relevant disbursements (payments to third parties on your behalf). In private cases all experts, barristers and other costs would have to be covered.
If you would like to discuss private funding or a quotation for your legal fees, please do not hesitate to contact us.
If you are acquitted in the magistrates court then you may seek an order that part of your defence costs are paid from Central Funds. The maximum that can be reclaimed in respect of any Magistrates Court work is the same as would have been paid to the Firm by the Legal Services Commission under legal aid. This may be significantly less than the fees you actually paid to the Firm for the work done as the Private Client rate is much higher than the legal aid rate. You will be responsible for the difference even if you are acquitted.