Client Care

We have agreed that we will keep you informed regularly of progress in your case, especially if we decide we need to do something which we have not yet discussed with you. We will provide you with updates further to each court appearance and appointment you have with us.

It may be necessary to instruct a barrister for either Magistrates’ or Crown court hearings. We will explain this to you if this happens and, where appropriate, discuss the choice with you.

As part of our on going responsibilities, we shall:

  • Review your matter regularly and to keep you regularly informed of your case progress, or if there are none, when you are next likely to hear from us
  • Advise you as to any changes to the law applicable to your matter
  • Advice you of any circumstances and risks which we are aware or consider to be reasonably foreseeable that could affect the outcome of your matter

To assist us in carrying out the work as efficiently as possible, please would you ensure that all information provided is, to the best of your knowledge, complete, accurate and up to date. Please would you also notify us of any changes or variations to that information which may arise after the date it is passed to us and of any new circumstances that might be relevant to the work we are undertaking.

Your ongoing responsibilities, though not exhaustive include:

  • To provide us with any change of name, address and contact telephone number
  • To provide us with clear, timely and accurate instructions
  • To provide all relevant documentation required in your matter
  • That you will safeguard any documents which are likely to be required or discovered

The length of a case depends on the type of plea, nature of the offence and the court’s other commitments.

In the Magistrates’ Court, a guilty plea, if not concluded on the day, would ordinarily come to a conclusion within a month of the first hearing. A trial in the magistrates’ court would normally conclude within 6 months.

In the Crown Court, a guilty plea would typically follow a similar timescale to that in the Magistrates’ Court. However, a trial would generally take longer to conclude: up to 12 months or sometimes longer.

Generally timescales are shorter if you are in custody as naturally these types of cases are given priority.

As matters progress, we should be in a better position to advise you of the likely timeframes.

Legal Aid

Funding at court can conveniently be divided into two: Magistrates’ court and Crown court.

1. Magistrates’ Court

If you granted a Representation Order (Legal Aid) this will enable us to provide advice & assistance and representation at the Magistrates’ court on your behalf. This certificate has been granted on the basis of the information that you supplied. Please note that if any of this information supplied by you is false or misleading, your legal aid may be stopped and you will be have to fund your legal costs privately. Further, the Legal Aid Agency may prosecute which could lead to a prison sentence or fine.

No contributions are required under this scheme.

If you are found guilty at the Magistrates’ Court, the court will often order you to pay a portion of the costs of the prosecution and a victim surcharge.

Please see below for details of the criminal courts’ charge and victim surcharge which may also be relevant to your case.

2. Crown Court

If your case goes to the Crown court, your eligibility for Legal Aid will have to be assessed. You may have to pay towards the cost of your defence.  This could be from your income while the case is ongoing and / or from your capital if you are convicted.

You may be asked to provide evidence of your income and assets.  If you do not, your payments could be increased which would result in you paying more towards your defence costs.  If you do not tell the truth on your legal aid application about your income, assets and expenditure you could be prosecuted.

You will not have to pay towards the costs of your case if you are under 18 when you make your application or if you receive any of the following benefits : income support, income-related employment and support allowance (ESA), income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), or guaranteed state pension credit.

In general terms your eligibility for Legal Aid at the Crown court will be determined using the following two-pronged test:

  • Interests of Justice
  • Means test

In order to qualify, your case must pass both tests. We would be happy to advise further on the typical of criteria used for each test, but in general terms it is possible to state the following:

  • Owing to the more serious nature of proceedings in the Crown court, these cases automatically pass the Interest of Justice test
  • The financial test includes consideration of household income, capital and outgoings and based on these considerations there are ultimately 3 possible outcomes:

 

  • If you annual household disposable income is assessed under the means test, then you will qualify for Legal Aid;
  • If it is assessed as over a certain level set by government, then you will be ineligible for Legal Aid;
  • If it is assessed as being somewhere between the two, you will have to make a contribution towards your defence costs.

You must tell the court about any changes to your financial circumstances during your case because a change may affect the amount you have to pay towards your defence costs.  If you don’t think you can afford to pay, or you think that a mistake has been made, you can ask for a review of the amount the court has told you to pay.

In respect of Representation Orders, please be aware of the following matters:

a) A Representation Order only operates from the date it is granted.

b) We may represent you before Legal Aid is granted dependant on the nature of both the allegation and the type of hearing. We can advise you further about this, and whether there are any additional costs involved should it become appropriate.

c) Advice prior to the grant may be covered in very limited circumstances by the “Advice and Assistance” scheme. This assistance is means and merit tested and provides an entitlement to two hours advice and assistance subject to possible limit extensions in certain specific cases. If you need further advice about this matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.

d) If there is a failure to comply with the requirements of the Representation Order, then it may be discharged. The cost consequence of this may be that you are liable for the costs of the case from the discharge of the certificate.

e) If you are you plead guilty or are either found guilty, either in the magistrates’ court or in the Crown court, you may be ordered by the court to contribute towards prosecution costs.  Further, in the Crown court in these circumstances you may also be ordered to contribute either in whole or in part to the costs of your defence.

f) If a Representation Order is refused you may appeal the decision.  However, if the application is ultimately unsuccessful then you will have to decide whether you wish to instruct us on a private basis. If you find yourself in this situation and decide to instruct us privately, your advisor will discuss this with you and let you know exactly the financial liability you face.

g) If there is any change in your financial circumstances, you must inform us immediately and we in turn are obligated to inform the Legal Aid Agency. This may affect your Legal Aid eligibility under this scheme. This is a requirement of the Legal Aid Regulations.

h) You will, upon acquittal, be entitled to reclaim any costs you were asked to pay towards your defence. However, please be aware that the levels at which you may reclaim are limited to those that would have been paid under the Legal Aid scheme had your application for Legal Aid been successful. Also, you must be able to demonstrate that you had applied for Legal Aid and you application was refused.

The financial aspects of a case which ends up in the Crown court are somewhat complicated and you are advised to read carefully the entire section above which relates to the same. As in the magistrates’ court, if you are found guilty you may also be liable to pay a victim surcharge.

When a court passes a sentence it must also order that the relevant victim surcharge is paid. Revenue raised from the Victim Surcharge is used to fund victim services through the Victim and Witness General Fund.

The victim surcharge is linked directly to your sentence. Therefore, the surcharge depends on the sentence you receive and whether at the time the offence was committed you were an adult or a youth (under 18 years of age), or if you are an organisation.