How do I fund my case?
- How do I pay for my legal fees?
- Who qualifies for Legal Aid?
- My case is being heard in the Crown Court – do I qualify for Legal Aid?
- Do I have to repay legal aid if I’m found guilty?
- Private Funding
Year on year the government body, the Legal Aid Agency (formerly the Legal Services Commission), has renewed our contract to undertake criminal defence work on a government-funded basis. The number of contracts awarded has reduced over the past decade as the government excludes poorly performing firms. We are proud of our track record for legal aid work, and are one of the largest providers of legal aid advice in the UK.
Should you qualify for legal aid, it is your choice as to whether you want to be represented under the scheme, or whether you prefer to cover the costs of your representation on a private fee paying basis. Certain cases will not, in any event, attract the benefit of legal aid.
At the Police Station
Legal advice at the police station is free. You are entitled to a solicitor of your own choice regardless of what you may or may not be earning. At your request, a police officer must notify inform your solicitor that you have been arrested. We can be at any police station in the area within 30 minutes, so ask the custody sergeant to call us on 0330 999 4999, at any time, day or night.
Legal Aid in the Magistrates Court
In the Magistrates Court, you must pass a two-stage test to decide whether or not you are eligible for legal aid.
Stage 1 – the Interests of Justice test
Your solicitor will check whether your type of case means you should get your legal representation at court paid for. You are likely to pass this test if you could:
- go to prison
- lose your job
- have your reputation damaged
- find it difficult to follow court proceedings because of language difficulties or mental illness
Stage 2 – the Means Test
The second stage of the two-stage test for legal aid looks at your income and living costs. You will automatically qualify for legal aid if you either:
- get Income Support, Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Guaranteed State Pension Credit; or
- are under 16 years of age (or under 18 years of age and in full-time education)
If your case is being heard at a magistrates’ court and you don’t automatically pass the means test, you might still qualify for legal aid at a magistrates’ court if:
- your annual income is less than £12,475
- your annual income is between £12,475 and £22,325 but your monthly spare income (the amount of money you have left over after your essential bills are paid) is less than £283 a month.
If your spare income is more than £283 a month, you will have to pay your own legal bills.
If your case is being heard at a Crown Court and you don’t automatically pass the means test, you might still qualify for legal aid at Crown Court if:
- your spare income is less than £283 per month
- you can’t afford to pay from your income
If your monthly spare income is £283 or more you will have to pay 90 per cent of it towards legal fees for up to five months. Or you can pay the whole amount up-front.
In this case, it is worth looking at whether you would pay more in fees under this scheme than you would if paying privately. Your solicitor will help you work this out.
When and if you need to repay legal aid depends on the type of court that dealt with your case and your financial circumstances.
If you are found guilty at magistrates’ court, you don’t need to repay the legal aid.
If you are found guilty at Crown Court, you might have to repay some or all of the legal aid if you have more than £30,000 in income, savings, property and investments. Speak to your solicitor for further advice.
Most people fund their cases privately, but that doesn’t have to mean huge legal bills. We work with clients to help them work out schedules to make affording fees easier, and usually can offer fixed fees so clients know what to expect and can plan for it.
We will provide an estimate of costs, including our charge-out rates, and estimates of costs will be updated regularly. This covers things like court fees and expert witness fees. Clients will be asked to provide payments on account, which will be held in a separate account here until bills of costs are submitted.
Contact our legal experts today
Call us now in complete confidence on 0330 999 4999 for immediate emergency representation. You can also contact us free via Whatsapp on 07899 953415 or Blackberry messenger: PIN 287DA137.