Clients who are arrested and interviewed or attend the police station voluntarily to be interviewed as a suspect are entitled to Legal Aid. There is no means testing therefore your income and capital position is not relevant. On most occasions a representative of this firm will attend the police station in person, but there are some rare occasions when advice may only be given over the phone. Please note that Devas Keogh James will never charge for assistance at the police station.
Work outside of the police station prior to charge, may be funded under a separate scheme known as ‘advice and assistance’. This scheme is means tested. We will check whether you are financially eligible. If you are not eligible for ‘advice and assistance’ we will either do that work free of charge or if the amount of work necessary is extensive we will require payment on a private basis.
Representation at interviews conducted by non-police agencies e.g. Department for Work and Pensions, RSPCA etc., is not covered by non-means tested Legal Aid. You may however be eligible for ‘advice and assistance’ as described above. We will assess whether or not you qualify.
Legal Aid is available in respect of cases before the Magistrates Court. To be eligible you must pass the eligibility tests.
Firstly, you must be financially eligible. Clients who are in receipt of Guaranteed Pension Credit, Income Support, ESA , Jobseekers Allowance or most types of Universal Credit will automatically pass the financial eligibility test. In addition, clients under the age of 18 will also pass the financial eligibility test. Eligibility will be assessed by the Legal Aid Agency although we are able to indicate in most circumstances whether you will pass the financial eligibility test. Applications may need to be supported by documentary evidence such as wage slips etc. We will let you know what documents are needed.
Secondly, even if you are financially eligible, the Legal Aid Agency will apply the ‘merits’ test. The Legal Aid Agency will consider the circumstances of your case and consider for example the seriousness of the charge you face, the effect on you if you were to be found guilty of the charge, whether there are any complicated features or whether you will be able to understand the proceedings. We will be able to say in most cases whether your case passes the ‘merits’ test.
If you pass both the above tests you will be eligible for Legal Aid and will be granted a Representation Order.
If you fail either test we will be able to discuss how you may pay for your fees on a private basi
Legal Aid in the Crown Court will normally cover representation by both a Solicitor and Advocate.
If your case proceeds from the Magistrates Court to the Crown Court and you have the benefit of Legal Aid in the Magistrates Court, then you will automatically receive Legal Aid in the Crown Court. At this stage you will not have to pay any contribution towards your costs.
Even if you were not financially eligible for Legal Aid in the Magistrates Court you are likely be eligible for Legal Aid in the Crown Court.
The Legal Aid Agency will once again carry out a financial eligibility test, however they will apply a different test to the test carried out for the Magistrates Court. If you pass the test you may receive Legal Aid without having to pay anything towards your costs. You may however be assessed as having to pay a contribution towards your costs. This could be from your income while the case is on-going and/or from your capital, if you are convicted (found or plead guilty).
The rules in relation to Crown Court legal aid are complex and we will guide you through the application process. If Legal Aid is granted you will be informed as to whether there is any contribution payable. If you find the payment proposals unacceptable, you must notify us immediately so that we can reject the offer of Legal Aid or investigate whether you have expenditure that the Legal Aid Agency has not considered.
If you are required to pay contributions towards Crown Court Legal Aid and fail to do so, interest charges will be added and the Legal Aid Agency may take legal action to enforce the monies owed. Enforcement action can include the clamping, seizure and/or sale of your vehicle (and please note that there is no legal aid available to assist you in challenging this enforcement).
Other enforcement options include:
It is vital therefore that you fully understand the financial implications of accepting Legal Aid subject to income or capital contributions. Legal proceedings, particularly the trial process can be very expensive, often running into many tens of thousands of pounds. If you have capital above the limit (£30,000) this is therefore at risk and you could for example ultimately lose your home.
If you have paid contributions but are acquitted of all charges, monies you have paid (with interest) will be returned to you. If you are acquitted of some but not all charges the amount payable under contributions may in some cases be apportioned, meaning that you will pay less. We will discuss this with you further should this situation arise. If you are found guilty, you may have to pay towards your defence costs from any capital assets you may have.
You will be asked to provide evidence of your income and assets.
The Legal Aid Agency will also carry out a ‘merits test’. The fact that a case is heard in the Crown Court usually means that the merits test is satisfied.
If you fail either test or reject the offer of Legal Aid we will be able to discuss how you may pay for your fees on a private basis
Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court
Cases that progress to the Court of Appeal or/and in London are rare. If there are grounds to appeal against your conviction and/or sentence or you wish to resist an appeal by the Attorney General (in effect the Prosecution), we will apply for Legal Aid on your behalf. Most cases at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court qualify for Legal Aid, but legal aid is subject to a Recovery of Defence Costs Order, in other words an assessment as to your means will take place and an Order may be made that you pay some or all of your defence costs in relation to your appeal. We will discuss whether this might affect you in the event that an appeal is lodged.
If you are not eligible for Legal Aid or reject an offer of Legal Aid, we will not be able to represent you unless you pay privately. We appreciate that the cost of representation can be significant. For that reason we do our best to keep our fees at a competitive level without sacrificing quality. We are also content in most circumstances to spread payment of our fees over a period of time.
Please bear in mind that the consequences of criminal proceedings against you are potentially very serious. They range from financial penalties and loss of driving licence through to lengthy periods of imprisonment. It is important that if at all possible you are legally represented.
We offer the following fee options.
We are able to offer a fixed fee option in all but the most complex of cases. At the commencement of your case we will tell you what our fee will be. If the case is likely to finish very quickly, you will be required to pay the entire fee at the outset of the case. If your case is likely to take some time, we will usually be content to spread the fee over the lifetime of the case. In those circumstances we would expect that the entire fee would be paid before the anticipated final hearing of your case.
The level of our fee will depend on the circumstances of your case. It must be paid in full, whatever the outcome of your case. It cannot for any reason be reduced, for example if your case is dealt with sooner than anticipated and will not be increased by us for any reason.
Some cases will require us to instruct a third party to carry out work on your behalf. An example of this would be asking an expert to consider scientific evidence. The cost of the third party will be in addition to our fixed fee. We will not incur these costs on your behalf without explaining them to you and obtaining your permission.
The main benefit of a fixed fee is to provide peace of mind and an ability to spread payment of the fee over a period of time.
The second method of calculating our fees is by way of applying an hourly rate. You pay for each item of work calculated on the particular hourly rate of the person carrying out that work. Our hourly rates depend on the status and experience of the individual concerned. Our rates are reviewed on an annual basis and therefore may change during the life of your case.
If you prefer to pay our fees in this way, we will provide an estimate as to how much our fees will be. We will regularly keep you informed as to the progress of your case, including any increase or decrease in that estimate. At the outset of your case you will be asked for an amount on account of our costs and thereafter you will be billed every month for the work that has been carried out on your behalf. The fees of third parties as described above are payable in addition to our fees.
The advantage of this method of payment is that you only pay for work that has been carried out. This unfortunately includes additional work carried out as a result of reasons beyond our control, such as delays at Court, cancellations of hearings etc.
The disadvantage is that you do not have the peace of mind and certainty of a fixed fee.
It is your choice as to which of the above you prefer. We will go through the options with you before making your decision.
If the case against you is withdrawn or discontinued or a Court finds you not guilty, you are entitled to make an application that your legal fees be reimbursed. Reimbursement will be calculated at prevailing legal aid rates. This means that you are likely to be reimbursed only a proportion of the fees paid to us.
In addition to our fees, there may be other financial implications that you need to be aware of. These implications apply equally whether you have paid our fees on a private basis or you have had the benefit of Legal Aid. The most common are detailed below.
If you plead guilty or are found guilty you may be liable to pay a contribution towards the prosecution’s costs. The amount will depend on the type of case and when your case was concluded.
Costs will be less if your case concluded at an earlier stage, for example costs will be less if you plead guilty at the first hearing as opposed to being found guilty after a trial. Costs are not payable if you are found not guilty or the case against you is discontinued or withdrawn by the prosecution.
A Court has discretion whether to order you to pay costs and your ability to pay will be taken into account.
We will be able to discuss the likely costs level once we have full information in relation to your case.
A fine is a type of sentence imposed by a Court if you either plead or found guilty. It is a sentence imposed for relatively minor offences. In imposing a fine a Court is obliged to take into account your means and ability to pay.
Compensation can be a sentence in its own right but is normally combined with another type of sentence. A Court will order you to pay compensation if it is of the view that the offence you have committed has caused a person or other organisation financial loss or the offence has resulted in an injury to a person. That injury can either be physical or emotional. The Court will assess the amount of compensation to be paid by having before it evidence or using their own judgements as to the appropriate level. The Court has discretion to order compensation and will have regard to your means and your ability to pay. Compensation is prioritised over other financial penalties and cost..
If you plead or are found guilty, a Court must, (subject to very limited exceptions) impose upon you a Victim Surcharge. The amount of surcharge is set out by the Government and is dependent on your age and the type of sentence imposed. Your means or ability to pay is not relevant.
Costs, compensation and fines can all be imposed as part of a single sentencing package. The Court also has the option of ordering one or two of the three without ordering the other/s.
In relation to any financial penalty, the Court will usually allow you to pay that penalty over a period of time by instalments. In assessing the level of instalments, the Court will have regard to your means.
Failure to pay a financial penalty will result in enforcement action taken against you, which is likely to increase the amount owing to the Court. Ultimately the Court has the power to impose a term of imprisonment in default of payment.