Over the last decade there have been increasing concerns about the withdrawal of funding from more and more areas of law. In these areas of law it had previously been understood that people would need assistance in order to secure access to justice. One such area is criminal legal aid.
Although free advice and assistance is still available at the police station there are limits in both the Magistrates Court and Crown Court. These are determined not just on whether it can be established that a lawyer is required (the “merits” test), but even when this test is satisfied, a strict “means” test has to be satisfied as well.
Increasingly, I find myself being instructed by clients (or their parents) who never thought that they would have to deal with the criminal justice system and are left bewildered and confused when the worst happens and they find themselves facing court proceedings.
I recently found myself dealing with two very similar cases, neither of which came under the current scope of legal aid. One client “RH” was facing allegations of police assault. A professional person arrested after finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the first hearing I was able to produce evidence to the prosecution which led to them reviewing the case, withdrawing the allegations and to the court making a defence costs order in the defendant’s favour. The second client “DC” again had been involved in an altercation with the police. I was instructed by his parents before the case came to court. Representations put forward by me at the first hearing led to the imprisonable allegation DC faced being replaced by a less serious allegation. The defendant pleaded guilty to the lesser offence and the case was concluded that day by the imposition of a fine.
Neither of these clients had been represented at the police station but thankfully had made the decision to instruct a solicitor for court even though no legal aid was available to them. Without that representation they would have either pleaded guilty to offences they were not guilty of, or faced a long stressful delay waiting for the case to come to trial.
If you or someone you care for finds themselves before the courts it is of crucial importance that you secure the right representation. Call a member of our team on 0175 321 6399. We have an experienced criminal legal team and use the service of expert counsel and independent expert witnesses when required.