Private Versus Legal Aid Criminal Solicitors.
We refused to do Legal Aid work from the moment we set up this practice. After over 20 years working within Legal Aid, we saw the appalling treatment that Criminal Defence Solicitors received from the Legal Aid Board.
We were sick of the restrictions imposed on us, what we could do, how much work we would be paid for. We did not want a civil servant who has no experience of being a criminal defence solicitor telling us we can’t have an expert helping our case or that we won’t be paid to do certain things that our case needs.
We had a case recently that highlighted the difficulties Legal Aid solicitors face and the different service you get from a private practice like ours.
We acted for two defendants but as the case developed it became clear that there was a conflict of interest and we could not act for both. We advised one of them to go to a Legal Aid lawyer and recommended a firm we thought would do a good job. They have a national reputation of being good at their job.
As often happens, when we got close to trial the CPS suddenly started to provide us with additional evidence we had never seen before. The week before trial we received 1500 pages of additional evidence. We worked late every night and early every morning. We went through every single page of evidence with our client, we worked with our barrister throughout (a QC, we didn’t have to persuade the Legal Aid Board we should have a top barrister we just did what was best for the client). By the time we got to court we were ready to go.
The barrister appointed by the Legal Aid firm wasn’t aware that there had been new evidence, he had never seen it. The lawyer dealing with the case in the legal aid practice hadn’t been able to look at the paperwork yet. He asked if we could carry him for the first few days until he got up to speed.
It was a difficult case, it was very stressful for the client. Our client had his caseworker with him every minute of the trial. The co-accused’s solicitor popped in on the first day of a three week trial never to be seen again.
The caseworker had worked on this case for two years, she knew it inside out and was able to work with the barrister throughout the trial. She made word for word typed notes that were given to all barristers at the end of the day to help with the case and she was able to strategise with the barrister in the evenings.
Not only was our client’s caseworker there throughout but at vital parts of the case such as when the client was giving evidence for two days we also had our senior partner there to add additional support. The client was not charged for these additional services, it was part of his fixed fee. Our senior partner had also worked on this case for two years. He returned for the three days the jury were out on a verdict purely to support the client in the tough times and was there when the whole team retired to the pub after to celebrate a well earned and deserved victory.
If the case is important to you don’t risk it to Legal Aid, call us to see how we can make a difference.
Call for a free initial assessment on 01623 397200