This is a brief explanation of the system in England and Wales. In other parts of the UK, and in other countries, the law is different.
Should I be represented?
If you know that you must see the police about an alleged crime, you can seek legal advice beforehand. Then you can be advised before you go to the police station, and accompanied when you go there.
During the Investigation
Suspects detained or questioned at police stations are entitled to free legal advice, whatever their means. They may consult a Duty Solicitor or a solicitor of their own choice.
Generally, the position is the same whether the investigation is by the police or by another agency, such as the Revenue & Cutoms.
Duty solicitors give free advice at certain Magistrates' Courts and Youth Court hearings. This form of advice is only available in these courts, and is not available at the Crown Court.
It is obviously better, where possible, to seek legal advice beforehand. If you intend to be represented, consult a lawyer as soon as possible. The sooner he or she can start work on your case, the better.
Finding a lawyer
In the first place, you will need to consult a solicitor.
You may know a solicitor already. Somebody you know may be able to recommend one. Or you could ask your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau for information about local firms.
Solicitors details can be found online, in public library reference books, and in directories like Yellow Pages and Thomson.
At some stage your solicitor may engage a barrister, who is a specialist advocate. The solicitor will arrange this. You cannot instruct a barrister direct.
Legal Aid and Fees
You may be entitled to free legal aid for the full case. This will depend on your financial situation and the nature of the case. The legal aid scheme is fairly complicated, and is subject to frequent change. Ask a solicitor for current details.
Even if you do not qualify for legal aid, some solicitors offer preliminary advice for a nominal fee or free of charge.
Motoring organisations, trade unions and other bodies sometimes provide free legal advice for their members. Check if this applies to you.
Contingency, or conditional, fee arrangements are not available in criminal cases. Nor do insurance policies generally cover such cases. See your own policy for details.
If you do not qualify for any type of free assistance, you will be responsible for your legal fees. Reach agreement on fees at the outset. That is the best way to avoid misunderstandings.
Further advice can be obtained from:
Tosswill & Co, Solicitors
260 Brixton Hill
London, SW2 1HP (UK)
Tel: (020) 8674 9494
Mob: 07739 805 999 (24hr Police Station attendance)
Fax: (020) 8671 8987
© Copyright 2009 Tosswill & Co Solicitors - All rights reserved - Disclaimer.