Frequently Asked Questions
A selection of frequently asked questions.
If the police are going to interview you under caution, or if you have been arrested, then you are entitled to free and independent legal advice and representation. This can be with a solicitor of your own choice (provided that they have a contract with the Legal Aid Agency to provide publicly funded representation at the police station), or by the Duty Solicitor on duty at that time. This right can only be withheld in exceptional circumstances.
There are certain circumstances, for example, in relation to minor, non-imprisonable offences, where this right is limited to telephone advice only.
No. Every Duty Solicitor is an independent solicitor who has successfully passed rigorous auditing procedures by the Legal Aid Agency. The likelihood is that the usual solicitor of your choice is also a member of the local Court and 24 Hour Police Station Duty Solicitor Schemes.
It happens frequently that the police release you after interview to come back to the police station at a later date pending further enquiries. You are generally released on unconditional or conditional police bail until your next police station appointment.
During this time, any work that you require us to do is not covered by the police station advice and assistance scheme. It is possible that you could get help with a pre-charge investigations stage criminal case, even if you have not been charged with a criminal offence. For example, we can give general advice, write letters or make post interview enquiries on your behalf. This type of help is called Advice and Assistance.
You will get Advice and Assistance if you receive qualifying benefits, such as Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit or Universal Credit. If you get Working Tax Credit then you might qualify for Advice and Assistance depending on your income and personal circumstances.
If you are not getting one of these benefits or Working Tax Credit then you will only get Advice and Assistance if your income and savings are below a certain amount.
If you wish to apply for Legal Aid to be represented in criminal proceedings in the Magistrates Court or Youth Court then you should first instruct a firm holding a contract with the Legal Aid Agency to provide publicly funded criminal defence services in your area. Legal Aid in the Magistrates, Youth and Crown Courts is provided by way of a Representation Order. Applications for a Representation Order are generally made online by a Legal Aid Agency contract holder via the Agency’s online portal.
A Representation Order covers representation by a Solicitor and, if necessary, by a Barrister in criminal cases. There are two eligibility tests for a Representation Order, namely the interests of justice test and the financial means test. Both must be passed in order to qualify for a Representation Order.
To qualify for a Representation Order in the Magistrates Court or Youth Court on the financial means test, you must meet certain financial conditions. You will automatically meet these conditions if you are under 18 years old. You will also automatically meet the conditions if you are getting Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit or Universal Credit. Otherwise, the financial conditions depend on your gross income and whether you have a partner and/or dependent children. If your gross annual income, which when adjusted to take into account any partner or children, is over £22,325 then you will not be eligible for a Representation Order. However, in some cases it may be possible to apply for a review on the grounds of hardship.
If you do meet the financial conditions then you will usually get help with representation in a criminal case in the Magistrates Court or Youth Court, provided it is also in the interests of justice that you are legally represented. This means, for example, if you are likely to go to prison if you are convicted. Basically, a Representation Order will tend only to be granted if the Legal Aid Agency considers your case to be “serious enough” to justify making an application.
Generally, if you are charged with a minor, non-imprisonable offence then your case is unlikely to pass the interests of justice test, even if you pass the financial means test. Examples of such offences include driving document offences, minor Public Order Act offences and being drunk and disorderly.
It will automatically be considered in the interests of justice that you are legally represented if your case is sent by the Magistrates to the Crown Court. However, you may have to contribute towards the cost of your legal representation from your income or capital if you are granted a Representation Order for Crown Court proceedings.
If you have a disposable income above £283.17 per month then you will have to make five monthly contributions from your income. The amount of contribution will depend of the amount of disposable income. If you are late making payments then you will have to make one extra payment.
If you are found guilty and have capital over £30,000, you may be asked to pay a contribution from your capital.
However, you will not be entitled to legal aid representation if your disposable annual income is £37,500 or more. Consequently, you will have to pay privately for your costs if you wish to be legally represented.
Your Legal Aid contribution payments will be refunded to you if you are found not guilty.
If you do not get legal advice before your case comes up at the Magistrates Court then you may be able to get free legal advice and representation by the Court Duty Solicitor for your first court hearing. This, however, does not apply to less serious cases, such as minor driving offences or other minor, non-imprisonable offences.
You do not have to meet any financial conditions to get free advice and representation by the Court Duty Solicitor at your first hearing in the Magistrates Court if your case qualifies.
The court staff will tell you how to find the Court Duty Solicitor.
No. This Firm does not have a contract with the Legal Aid Agency to undertake Prison Law work. You will need to look for a Firm with a Legal Aid Agency contract to undertake Prison Law.
No. This Firm deals only with criminal defence litigation and representation in the police station, Magistrates Courts, Youth Courts and Crown Courts.
No. However, we do explore all possibilities for Legal Aid funding on your behalf. We also take whatever time is required fully to discuss your case when we meet you for the first time at the police station or court, or after Legal Aid funding is in place.
No. We are not a Training Contract provider.
No. The nature and sensitivity of our cases make it essential that we maintain the utmost confidentiality for our Clients at all times. We cannot risk compromising this by exposing case files to persons who are not part of this Firm.