Legal Representation in Criminal Cases

If you are suspected or accused of a criminal offence, what about legal representation? This page briefly explains the position in England & Wales.

For more advice contact:

Tosswill & Co, Solicitors
260 Brixton Hill
London, SW2 1HP (UK)

Tel: (020) 8674 9494
Mob: 07739 805 999
(24hr Police Station attendance)

Criminal investigations

If the police wish to interview you as a suspect, you can seek legal advice beforehand.  You can be advised by a solicitor before the interview, and have a solicitor present at the interview.

At the police station

Any suspect detained or questioned at a police station is entitled to free legal advice, regardless of financial means.  The suspect can choose the solicitor, or can consult a duty solicitor.

Other prosecuting agencies

Your rights are generally the same whether the investigation is by the police or by another prosecuting agency. Other prosecuting agencies include local authorities, the Department for Work & Pensions, and HM Revenue & Customs.

At court

Duty solicitors provide free advice and representation at some Magistrates’ and Youth Court first hearings.  Help by court duty solicitors is only available at those hearings. It is not available at the Crown Court.

If you intend to be legally represented, it is best to seek advice from a solicitor before going to court. Try to do this as soon as you can.

Finding a solicitor

You may know a solicitor already, or one may be recommended to you.

Alternatively, solicitors’ details can be found online. Advice agencies like the Citizens Advice Bureau may also be able to recommend a solicitor.

Solicitors and barristers

At some stage your solicitor may engage a barrister, who is a specialist advocate. The solicitor will arrange this.

Barristers are normally engaged via solicitors, but some barristers can be engaged direct by members of the public under the “Direct Access” scheme.  Check online for details of this scheme.

Legal Aid

Whatever your financial circumstances, you are entitled to free legal aid at the police station.

Your entitlement to free legal aid for court proceedings is different. It depends on the nature of the case and on your financial circumstances.  A solicitor will be able to advise on your eligibility.


Even if you do not qualify for legal aid, many solicitors offer preliminary advice free of charge. And some insurance policies, motoring organisations and trade unions will pay your legal fees.

If you do not qualify for any type of free legal assistance, you will be responsible for your legal fees. Try to reach agreement on fees as early as possible, to avoid misunderstandings.