Should I pay for a solicitor or use a legal aid solicitor or duty solicitor?
We all expect to pay for the advice and work of a solicitor, however, with criminal law, in certain circumstances you are entitled to free advice via a legal aid or duty solicitor.
At the police station every suspect is entitled to request the duty solicitor, this is free of charge. The police will contact the duty solicitor and you will get free advice in relation to your case either over the phone or in person if the duty solicitor is able to come and see you.
If you do not want the duty solicitor at the police station you can request a specific firm or individual solicitor to represent you, and if they are available and they undertake legal aid work that firm or solicitor can represent you free of charge via legal aid. Again, you will get free advice in relation to your case either over the phone or in person if the solicitor is able to come and see you.
At the Magistrates Court, if your case is one that carries a risk of a custodial sentence then you are entitled to ask to see the duty solicitor free of charge. The duty solicitor should be at court and will advise you in relation to your case and may then represent you in the court hearing. You can only use the duty solicitor once in each case and you cannot use the duty solicitor for a trial. A duty solicitor will not help with general motoring cases.
If you do not want the duty solicitor you can request a specific firm or individual solicitor to represent you, and if they are available and they undertake legal aid work that firm or solicitor can represent you free of charge via legal aid if you are eligible. Legal aid at court is means tested, to be eligible you need to be on benefits or have a low income of less than £240 per week before tax.
Legal aid is more complicated at the Crown Court, but in essence it is still means tested but if you have more income or assets you will be required to disclose your financial circumstances and make a financial contribution towards the costs of your legal aid to the Legal Aid Agency.
So why pay privately for a solicitor?
Quite simply, as with most things in life, you often get what you pay for.
Legal aid is better than nothing, but because the Government has consistently cut the legal aid rate over many years the remaining legal aid firms just cannot do the extra proactive work your case really needs, overworked and underpaid solicitors just don’t have the time to dedicate to each case.
Most tax payers are not supportive of paying more tax to fund a legal aid system that helps “criminals”. This is understandable; however, the underfunding can result in people being charged and convicted unnecessarily, and if you or someone you cared about is accused of a crime, you will appreciate that you are innocent until proven guilty and want the best legal advice.
If you or someone you care about is accused of a crime:
1. You will want every avenue of defence explored.
2. Every part of the prosecution evidence challenged.
3. Every possible action taken to gather evidence that can be sent to the police or the prosecution to try and close the case.
4. The best representation to guide you through each step.
That sort of proactive work takes time and skill. In my opinion, only a privately funded solicitor can give you that level of service.
A private solicitor like me can:
1. Review your case papers fully.
2. Meet and take your instructions.
3. Consider all avenues of defence.
4. Gather any defence evidence.
5. Speak to defence witnesses and take statements.
6. Collect digital data to support your defence.
7. Instruct expert witnesses or forensic scientists to prove your defence.
8. Do site visits and take photographs of key evidence.
9. Engage with the police and the cps to proactively push for your case to be closed.
10. Expertly represent you at the police station or court.
Legal services are like any other service, if it is free, it is unlikely to be the best.
If you pay, you can have confidence that someone is actively working towards getting you the best possible result.
Contact me via my email or website, I am always happy to have a free initial discussion about your case.