In criminal cases you may be entitled to public funding, which relies upon you providing all relevant information requested. Occasionally funding may be withdrawn if you do not co-operate in providing information, or where the case no longer justifies public funding. Public funding takes several forms: –
- Help at the Police Station
This scheme is non means tested which means that it is generally provided for free. The scheme applies when a person is under arrest or a volunteer at a police station in relation to a possible criminal charge. Advice is given either by telephone or by the solicitor or his or her accredited representative in person.
- Help with Advice and Assistance
This scheme is means tested and applies prior to any police charge. If your weekly disposable income falls below a certain figure (which is amended each year) and you have insufficient capital, we can undertake general criminal advice work on your behalf. When our advice work is costed we may have to apply to the Legal Aid Agency for permission to exceed certain financial limits. If you recover any money or property following our advice or intervention, it will be subject to a charge equivalent to our legal costs.
This scheme also applies to benefit fraud investigations.
- Help in the Magistrates’ Court
This scheme is means tested. A Magistrates’ Court Representation Order provides for full representation in the Magistrates’ Court and all reasonable costs of preparation. You must also satisfy the court as to the merits of your case. Even with a Representation Order you are still liable to make a contribution to the prosecution’s costs if found guilty of the offence. In brief you will only be eligible for legal aid in the Magistrates’ Court if you, together with your partner, do not have a total income from all sources before tax, or any other deduction, of more than £12,475 per year, or £239.90 per week.
- Help with Advocacy Advice
This scheme is non means tested. It allows us to represent you for free in relation to variations of pre charge bail from the Police Station and pre charge warrants of further detention.
- Help in the Crown Court
If you are granted a representation order in the Magistrates’ Court you will not have to pay contributions from your income in the Crown Court unless there is a change in your financial circumstances from when your original application was made. If you have not already been granted a representation order in the Magistrates’ Court but your case goes to the Crown Court for hearing in most cases you will automatically qualify for legally aided representation once you have completed an application form. After you have been means tested, 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 will 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 then 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 based jobseeker’s allowance, guaranteed state pension credit or income related employment and support allowance.
You may have to pay towards your defence costs if your monthly disposable income is above a certain level. If this is the case, you will receive a Contribution Order from the court and you will have to make payments as required under the Order. The first payment will be due within 28 days of your case being committed, sent or transferred for trial. 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 do not think you can afford to pay, or think that a mistake has been made, you can ask for a review of the amount the court has told you to pay.
Please note that from 27 January 2014 a financial eligibility threshold applies for all new applications for legal aid in the Crown Court. A person who is assessed under the means test as having an annual household disposable income of £37,500 or more will be ineligible for legal aid in the Crown Court.
At the end of the case, if you are found not guilty, any payment you have made will be refunded with interest. If you paid late or not at all and action was taken against you, the costs of this action will be deducted from the refund.
If you are found guilty, you may have to pay towards your defence costs from any capital assets you may have. This would only apply if:
- you have £30,000 or more of assets, for example: savings, equity in property, shares of Premium Bonds; and
- any payments you have already made have not covered your total defence costs.
You will be told at the end of your case if you have to make a payment from capital.
Appeal against Refusal of Representation Order in the Magistrates’ Court
There are two parts to the grant of any Representation Order. The Interests of Justice Test and the Financial Eligibility Test. The Interests of Justice test refers to whether or not the Court thinks that your case merits the grant of legal representation. The Financial Eligibility test speaks for itself.
If you are refused legal representation on the Interests of Justice test alone then you are entitled to request a reconsideration following refusal. To do this, you should put your reasons in writing as to why legal representation should be granted and confirm why you think legal representation should be granted and that your financial circumstances have not changed since you first applied. You can of course request that we do this on your behalf.
Should there be any further information that has come to light following the submission of your initial application for legal representation, please let us have details of this so that we can forward this information to the Court. If you believe that any information provided to the Magistrates’ Court for any financial eligibility calculation is wrong, you have a right to ask the Magistrates’ Court where you made the application to look at the application again.
If the Court is satisfied that new circumstances have arisen or some information has been provided to change the Court’s initial view in your favour, then a Representation Order can be granted, subject to the Financial Eligibility test. If any written application is refused then you do have the right to ask for the matter to be listed before the Magistrates’ Court for the Magistrates themselves to make a decision. Should your application for a Representation Order fail on the financial eligibility grounds but your means have changed then a new application can be made for re-assessment of your means.
If you believe that any information provided to the Magistrates’ Court for any financial eligibility calculation is wrong, you have the right to ask the Magistrates’ Court where you made the application to look at the application again. Should your application for a Representation Order fail on the financial eligibility grounds because your means have changed, then a new application can be made for re-assessment of your means.
Alternatively, if you believe that you would suffer financial hardship or have higher than usual outgoings you can submit a “hardship application” to the Court. This application will then be forwarded to the National Courts Team at the Legal Aid Agency who will carry out this review.
If you are unclear on any of your above rights to appeal, please contact us.
Appeal against Refusal of Representation Order in the Crown Court
As with an appeal against the refusal to grant a Representation Order in the Magistrates’ Court, there are two parts to the grant of any Representation Order (please see above). Should there be any further information that has come to light following the submission of your initial application for legal representation, please let us have details of this so that we can forward this information to the Court.
If you believe that there has been a mistake in relation to calculating your means, or any kind of administrative error, you should please inform the Crown Court immediately, within 21 days of the refusal notice sent by the Court (unless otherwise agreed by the Legal Aid Agency).
If you have an annual household disposable income of £37,500 or more you will be refused legal aid. However, if you can demonstrate that you cannot afford to pay privately for your case it may be that the Legal Aid Agency will review their decision.
To apply for an ‘eligibility review’ you must apply on form CRM16 to the Legal Aid Agency within 21 days of the refusal notice sent by the Court (unless otherwise agreed by the Legal Aid Agency).
1. Fee Structures
Hamer Childs makes use of two fee structures: namely fixed fees and fees charged on a time/cost basis. We will agree with you which fee structure is to be used. Where the latter basis is used, we will give you our best estimate of the likely charges involved.
We reserve the right to bill on an interim basis and are likely to do so with cases of any length.
The hourly rates charged by staff at Hamer Childs for preparation, attendances, advocacy, travel and waiting are as follows:
- Gary Harper – £201.00
- Mark Turnbull – £177.00
- Laura Perkins – £146.00
Letters and telephone calls are charged at 1/10 of the hourly rate per item.
The hourly rate is broken down into 6 minute units and the costing of your file will be calculated in accordance with the number of units spent in carrying out work on your behalf.
In addition to our hourly rate any reasonable disbursements incurred on your behalf will be charged at face value, for example medical expenses, expert reports or the like. Mileage is charged 45p per mile plus vat.
All of these rates are as approved by the Magistrates’ Court.
Please note that VAT is chargeable on all fees.
Please speak to us about any fixed fee arrangement that you might wish to come to.
2. Defence Costs Orders
If you are refused legal aid because you are above the financial eligibility threshold you will be required to pay privately for the costs of your defence.
If you are found not guilty you can apply to reclaim your defence costs from central funds which is a separate source of funding managed by the Ministry of Justice.
Please note, the maximum defence costs that can be reclaimed are the same as that which would have been paid at Legal Aid rates. In the Crown Court a refusal notice to demonstrate that Legal Aid was applied for and refused will be required in order for defence costs to be reclaimed. This means that you must still make an application for Crown Court legal aid even if you believe that this application is likely to be refused as otherwise you will be unable to reclaim your defence costs, at legal aid rates.
2. Change of Financial Circumstances and Address
Should your financial circumstances change then you must notify the Magistrates’ Court where you made your application of any such change.
Should your address change is it important that you tell us and also the Court. Similarly, if you are remanded in custody or to a bail hostel, the Court should be notified of this new address although usually the Court will be aware of this change.
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