Should I pay privately or get legal aid?
One of the most stressful things in life is to be accused of crime or even invited for an interview under caution. For many people the loss of reputation and career opportunities are as bad as any potential penalty. At Moss & Co’s Private Client Crime department we provide a highly professional private client service.
Why private client?
We find that many clients want the extra level of expertise and care that a senior solicitor working in private client crime brings to their case. This is especially so where a client is of good character and a conviction would lead to serious repercussions for their career. Some professions exclude people with even minor convictions. Conviction can wreck prospects in teaching, the law, banking, social work, medicine, in fact any profession where trust and good standing are valued.
Don’t solicitors have to provide legal aid?
Legal aid is an essential service that helps provide access to justice for people who cannot pay. The law society has recently made it clear that solicitors do not have to accept a legal aid case (other than a duty case) if it would be uneconomic for them to do the work
The question the client must ask is, “Is it in my interests to pay privately?” In short will I get a better service and so a greater chance of acquittal or other favourable disposal? Now this is not a purely academic question for some clients. Clients in the Magistrate’s Court can have unlimited capital or savings and if their income is within limits they are eligible without contributions. They may want to consider using some of their savings for their case. Legal Aid is not always “free”. In the Crown Court there can be very large contributions from income and capital as well as contribution orders against equity in property.
Is Private client better than legal aid?
If your case is important to you then you will want the very best lawyers to work on it. You will want the benefit of their years of experience of similar cases and their undivided attention. As in most walks of life you will, in general receive the quality of service for which you pay. You would not expect, and will not get, the most senior solicitors working on your legal aid case. This is because it is not economic for them to do so. If senior solicitors do legal aid work they do it at a loss. That is why many firms will use trainees, paralegals and recently qualified solicitors for their legal aid cases under supervision. Supervision may well ensure that cases are done competently but it will not ensure excellence. If it is excellence you want then you may wish to consider paying privately.
Paying privately for court cases
We have been doing private client criminal work for many years and the benefits for solicitor and client are clear. Clients receive a much better level of customer service. This is because their solicitor can afford to spend the time on the case, not only on the legal issues but also on customer care.
I hate to say it but in private cases the standard of legal work is higher. The private client solicitors are often older, wiser, specialists in their field, they will have seen cases just like yours before and will know the best strategies to achieve an acquittal or deflect a case from prosecution. They will not be worried about important work being disallowed. Nor will they be spending valuable time on bureaucratic procedures. They will focused entirely on your case. Sometimes a case needs an expert, a doctor, psychiatrist or forensic specialist who will not work at the low legal aid rates. In some cases, the solicitor may recommend use of a senior barrister. In other cases, time (and so money) needs to be spent to stop the prosecution before a charge is brought. This work is done on a private client basis.
Private client work at the Police Station for an interview under caution and before charge
If your case is important to you think very carefully about whether it is better to pay for the investigation part of your case. If you have to go for an interview under caution, whether at a police station or elsewhere you can either use the legal aid scheme or pay privately. It is your choice. Remember this, the average legal aid fee for a solicitor attending a police station including all travel, wait and attendance on you and the police is £219. As a result, most firms send non- solicitors, and often agents, to the police station whenever they can. This is a disadvantage as:
- You will not having the benefit of advice form a senior lawyer
- You will not have an opportunity to discuss your case before attending
- Your solicitor will not be able to get advance disclosure of the case against you.
- You will be giving important instructions in a stressful and intimidating environment
What do you advise?
Our strong advice is that if you have notice of the interview under caution contact your solicitor before attending. Make sure they know what you case is about and that they contact the investigator to get disclosure. You will probably have to pay privately if you want a pre- interview meeting and for your senior solicitor to attend the interview under caution with you. Cases are won and lost in these early stages. It is essential that you have the right advice before interview and that the police know you have high quality solicitors on your case. It can make all the difference between charge and no charge, conviction and acquittal.
Is it too expensive for me?
We do not think so. Moss & Co have worked hard to keep their prices down and we are confident you will not get an equivalent quality of service, at the same price, anywhere in London. One of our mantras has always been that we provide a high quality central London service at out of London prices. Our charges are entirely transparent and in some cases you can choose between hourly rates and an agreed fee. We will always quote a fixed fee for pre- charge work including, meetings, case assessment, obtaining disclosure and attending the interview under caution. We belive our private senior solcitor criminal work is very good value for money.
Don’t I need a central London solicitor?
Absolutely not, unless you like paying sky high fees for the same service. Moss & Co have been practising criminal law in East London for 25 years. We have our own dedicated private client department and because of our reduced overheads our charging rates are very competitive. You will be advised by senior solicitors who are real experts in criminal law and who are also specialists in their chosen fields such as financial fraud, tenancy fraud and serious crime. Confident and assured advice will be provided for your interview under caution.
We are not in central Mayfair but in trendy Hackney. Our historic Georgian building sits on the corner of Clapton Square. We are easy to get to by public transport or by car. We have solicitors who have worked with us for many years and in so doing developed their specialist practices. We are a firm that instils loyalty in both our practitioners and clients.
Amongst our most recent successes for private clients have been frauds where a liability of over £140,000 was avoided; another case where, even after the CPS had decided to prosecute, we managed by use of complex schedules, analysis and calculations, as well as a psychiatric report, to persuade the prosecutors that a conviction was unlikely and the case was dropped; a prosecution for a serious sexual assault which, despite the weight of the evidence ended in a not guilty verdict. There are many more examples in our cases section of the web site.
If you have a case that is important to you and are considering using our senior lawyer service we would be pleased to talk to you. Call Keith Hollywood or Narinder Moss on 020 8986 8336 or use the contact form below.