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Funding Your Case
Should you require privately funded representation in criminal matters, JMW is able to offer unrivalled value for money and a first-class defence. We provide a bespoke Private Client Criminal Defence Service, drawing on 35 years of criminal defence experience to offer the very best in legal representation. In terms of cost, we offer bespoke hourly rate services and fixed-fee representation.
Bespoke hourly rate services
Our competitive and flexible rates are calculated with reference to the nature of the case and the level of representation selected by our clients - ensuring the funds are allocated in the right way to give you the best chance of getting the outcome you want.
We are able to offer competitive and negotiable fixed-fee representation in the majority of cases heard at the Magistrates' and Crown Court. This has been particularly welcomed by our clients following recent changes to legal aid provisions. Clients with a disposable household income of more than £37,500 per annum will no longer be eligible for Legal Aid in criminal cases unless very exceptional circumstances apply. In addition, those who are eligible may be required to pay a high level of contributions to their defence costs and there are many circumstances in which private funding is more cost effective. Rather than publishing a table of our fixed fees, we assess your individual case - what you are facing, the level of representation you choose and what you want to achieve in the case - so that we can offer a fixed-fee tailored to your personal requirements.
When the complexity of the matter means we cannot offer a fixed-fee for the whole case, we may be able to provide fixed fees for stages within the case. If it is not possible for us to provide fixed fees, we can still help you budget properly by providing regular cost estimates and we can also offer payment plans for complex or long-running cases.
At JMW, we have great experience in representing both individual and corporate clients with insurance policies providing cover for legal fees and expenses. We are also able to advise on whether the policy terms provide cover in a particular case. We are experts in regulatory and management liability cases - in which we often act for company directors and officers. Many such cases are defended with the benefit of ‘Directors and Officers’ insurance cover - often referred to as management liability cover - and the insurance company needs to know that a policy holder is represented by lawyers who will work professionally and effectively towards the objective. We are acknowledged and authorised by one of the world’s largest insurance brokers and a market-leading insurance company in the provision of services covered by directors and officers policies.
When clients are acquitted after trial or the case is discontinued prior to trial, recovery of defence costs is a priority - and JMW employs a specialist team of in-house costs lawyers for that purpose. Although the majority of costs applications can be handled by the lawyer with direct conduct of your case, our ability to offer the services of a dedicated costs recovery lawyer in complex cases can make a very real difference to the net level of funding.
This service sets us apart from the vast majority of firms offering criminal law representation, and we will happily discuss how it can work for you.
Can I recover my private defence costs at the Magistrates' Court if I am found not guilty?
In most circumstances, acquitted defendants are entitled to the return of defence costs. Following changes to the law in October 2012, defence costs are returned at legal aid rates - and these can be lower than private rates.
Can I recover my private defence costs at the Crown Court if I am found not guilty?
Assuming that defence costs are not covered by a policy of insurance, you will need to apply for legal aid at the start of the case in order to stand a chance of recovering any defence costs at the Crown Court. This applies even if you know that you are ineligible. If legal aid is refused and you are found not guilty (or if the case is discontinued prior to trial), you can apply for the return of defence costs at the prevailing legal aid rates.
If I have Legal Aid and I am found not guilty, do I get my monthly contributions back?
In almost all circumstances, contributions paid from income will be refunded and this is a factor to consider when deciding whether private or public funding is appropriate. If you pay privately and you are found not guilty, you can only apply for the return of costs at legal aid rates. However, funding your defence with a legal aid certificate has implications for the level of available representation and other factors will influence the decision. We therefore find that clients appreciate a face to face meeting to discuss funding issues as well as case objectives.
If I have a Legal Aid order, why might I have to pay a contribution from my capital assets?
The full details are beyond the scope of this section but, in general terms, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) will assess your financial means and, if your disposable household income reaches a certain level, they may require you to make five or six monthly payments from your income at the start of the case. At the end of the case, the LAA will calculate the total defence costs incurred by your representatives (at legal aid rates) and if the payments from income are insufficient to cover those costs, the LAA may require you make a payment from your capital (after disregarding the first £30,000 of capital). This claim against capital can apply to equity in a property, certain savings or investments etc. The LAA can apply to register a charge against property and it is therefore important to obtain early detailed advice on how a legal aid order operates at the end of a case. This can influence a client’s funding choices from the very beginning.
If I am found guilty of one charge and not guilty of another, can I recover some of the Legal Aid contributions or can I avoid making a payment from capital?
Yes. The Crown Court has a power to apportion defence costs between counts on the indictment, and your representatives should make the appropriate application to the court at the end of the case if you are acquitted of one or more counts. This can make a huge difference to the amount of income or capital recovered by the LAA and many solicitors are unaware of the facility. There are strict time limits and the applications are sometimes quite complex. Pro-active advice is therefore necessary to protect a client’s costs position.
Do I need to pay for anything other than defence costs?
There may be prosecution costs, compensation and/or a financial penalty to pay if you are found guilty. It is also possible that you will be required to pay disbursements, although these can usually be anticipated and calculated as part of the costs estimate or fixed-fee. These disbursements can include experts' reports or counsels' fees, depending on the nature and requirements of your defence.
If I am eligible for legal aid at the Magistrates' or Crown Court, is it better to pay privately?
This is dependent on the level of service you choose, as well as the level of legal aid contributions from income/capital that you may have been asked to pay. The nature and length of the case, together with your intended plea, will also be important. From our side, we are able to provide the relevant figures and explain what you can expect from your defence team - both in legal aid and privately funded scenarios - to help you make fully informed choices.
What level of service should I expect from a Legal Aid certificate?
A Legal Aid certificate is not designed to provide the levels of service ordinarily provided in privately-funded cases. The hourly rates paid to defence solicitors under a criminal Legal Aid certificate average between one-eighth to one-quarter of the hourly rates charged on a private basis. Many Legal Aid cases are paid as 'graduated' or 'standard' fees, as opposed to payment at an hourly rate. In other words, no matter how many hours are spent preparing the case, the same fee is paid. All of this means that work undertaken in Legal Aid cases will usually be carried out by a junior lawyer, while some firms use clerks without legal qualifications. Where senior lawyers or partners become involve, it will usually be in a supervisory capacity or in specific aspects of the case. In order to make a profit, work needs to be carried out very efficiently and firms that cut corners to turn a profit are easy to spot. JMW benefits from 35 years of experience in criminal defence and we have successfully migrated into an award-winning full service law firm. Although Legal Aid cases at JMW must be resourced by staff of an appropriate level, we do not employ clerks for this purpose and we are not involved in the high volume, low cost aspects of criminal defence. We will agree to act with the benefit of a Legal Aid certificate where we believe that we can use our private client services without compromising quality. We do not offer 'two tier' representation and this means that we may decline to act in many cases where clients wish to apply for Legal Aid.
What if my financial circumstances deteriorate during the course of a privately-funded case?
There is a possibility you will be able to make a fresh application for legal aid using evidence of the revised income and relevant living expenses. You should bear in mind, however, that legal aid does not always represent the most cost-effective approach - and we can assist with the calculations so that you can make the best decision.
We are always happy to assist with particular funding questions, because we know that the financial aspect of a case is sometimes as stressful for clients as the case preparation.