Should I pay for a solicitor or use the Duty Solicitor?


21 Jan
21Jan

Should I use the Duty Solicitor or Should I pay for a Private solicitor?

Lucinda Dore Legal Services do not undertake duty or legal aid work as we choose to offer an experienced, bespoke, personal and attentive service to our clients, as we do all of the other areas of law which we specialise in. 

The benefit of representing only privately paying clients means we can focus on a smaller number of clients to make sure that they receive the service they deserve.  This is especially important for those who have been wrongly accused of a crime or those who need assistance to limit the implications of committing an offence.  We appreciate that often an offence can be committed out of character or unintentionally for example.

One question we are often asked by clients is what’s in it for them if they pay for a Private solicitor to represent them?  Some clients that we represent have never found themselves on the wrong side of law  before and often have no idea where to turn or whether they should ask for a solicitor to represent them at the police station or court.

 We thought that we would answer a number of these questions below.

What happens after I have been arrested?

Usually after a person has been arrested they are taken to the nearest police station or custody centre where they are interviewed under caution about the allegation that they face (unless the offence is a minor offence such as drunk and disorderly, a minor public order offence or excess alcohol cases where the driving is not in dispute). 

Do I need a at the solicitor police station?

When any suspect arrives at the police station they will be asked whether they would like to have their own solicitor present in the interview or if they would like to be appointed a duty solicitor.  Any person who chooses to have a duty solicitor is entitled to the designated duty solicitor free of charge. 

If you choose not to have the police appointed solicitor you can of course contact Lucinda Dore and we will attend the police station with you to represent you if you would prefer to have the security of knowing the solicitor who will be representing you.

If you choose to have a solicitor from Lucinda Dore Legal Services  at the police station we will meet with the interviewing officer to obtain disclosure prior to the interview (this consists of the interviewing officer telling us what offences you have been accused of and why they think that you are responsible for the offence).  The police then have an obligation to give us ample time to advise you about what to do in your interview i.e. whether you should answer questions in interview or exercise your right to silence for example.   We will then be present during your interview to make sure that it is conducted properly according to the law and to assist you at any time that you wish to stop the interview to ask us for further advice.

What if I haven’t been arrested but I have been asked to contact a police officer to answer questions about an offence or to attend an interview under caution?

If the allegation you face is not a particularly serious one and/or you have no previous convictions or cautions the police may not want to arrest you, but instead may invite you attend a voluntary interview under caution.  We strongly advise you to still exercise your right to have a solicitor present at that voluntary interview.  We often hear people tell us that they did not know that they were entitled to have a solicitor at a voluntary interview or did not think that they would need to have a solicitor, despite the fact that they were still interviewed under caution and can be summonsed to attend court for the alleged offence which they were questioned about.  There is no difference between an interview after arrest at the police station and a voluntary pre arranged interview under caution at the police station other than you will not be placed into a police cell.

Should you be asked to contact a police officer regarding an allegation we can assist by contacting the officer to arrange a mutually convenient time for you to attend accompanied by us.

But I haven’t done anything wrong, so wont it look like I’m guilty if I have a solicitor?

This is one of the biggest misconceptions that we hear.  It certainly will not make you look guilty for the offence should you have a solicitor, it simply shows that you have taken the arrest seriously and are seeking the legal advice that you are entitled to.  We often find ourselves assisting clients in court who have found themselves charged with offences as they either did not know the law and found themselves accepting offences believing that it would not go to court, only to find the court process a long and drawn out process that had significantly affect lives and of course could result n a criminal conviction.

What’s the difference between a duty solicitor and a private solicitor at the police station?

Duty solicitors are usually experienced, understanding and keen to assist however their time can be divided between you and other clients that they have also been asked to assist, we however will focus on your case only to make sure you receive the required attention and advice.  You will be more prepared having usually met with us at our offices where we can advise you what to expect.  You can be reassured that you have an experienced solicitor by your side at the police station.

What happens after I have been interviewed?

After your interview the interviewing officer will seek advice from a colleague, usually a more senior officer who will decide whether you should be released with No Further Action (if there is no evidence that an offence has been committed), to re bail you to a later date (if further enquiries need to be made to investigate whether an offence has been committed) or to charge you (this means that you will be given a date to attend court.

Will I get Bail?

Most people are bailed from the police station to attend court unless the offence that they face is particularly serious, they have failed to attend court on a previous occasion or have a large number of previous criminal convictions.

What is unconditional bail? When I left the police station I was told that I have unconditional bail – what does this mean?

Bail can be granted unconditionally (unconditional Bail) or with conditions (Conditional Bail).

Unconditional bail means that you have no conditions on your bail other than to make sure you attend court or the police station at the designated time and date.  If you fail to attend court without a reasonable excuse on that date and time you will be committing a separate bail act offence for which you can be separately punished for.

Conditional bail means that not only do you have to attend court at the date and time given, you will have to comply with additional conditions in the meantime, such as not to contact the prosecution witnesses or to resident at your home address each and every night.  If you fail to comply with those conditions you are liable to being arrested and kept in custody.

If you are not happy with the conditions or have difficulty complying with them we can help  you to apply to a custody sergeant at the police station to vary or lift your bail conditions or if they do not agree to vary your bail conditions we can apply to the Magistrates Court on your behalf.

What shall I do now – I’ve been charged with an offence?

Being charged with an offence does not mean that the police have found you guilty.  The police cannot find you Guilty of an offence; this is for the court to decide.  The police can only decide if they think there is a case for you to answer before a court.

You will be given a date and time to attend court which will be the nearest court to where the offence was allegedly committed.

It is strongly advised that you contact us as soon as possible to request that we represent you at court.  We can assist you for any offence for which you have been charged.  We will be able to contact the Crown Prosecution Service to request the evidence which they have against you (if any) and we will meet you in our offices to discuss that evidence and advise you further.  We will then be able to attend court with you to ensure you have an experienced solicitor who will fight your corner by your side.

How much will a Private solicitor cost me?

Each case is very different so we will always give you an estimate of our fees at the beginning and during your case so that you know where you stand.  We can often agree a fixed fee for our representation, particularly for cases involving only one attendance at court – such as a Guilty Plea.  We will always offer a free consultation on the phone, via email or in person to advise you of the fees that you are likely to expect and try to work within your means and your budget.

Should I use the Duty Solicitor at court or Pay for a solicitor?

Any person who is charged with an offence for which you can receive a prison sentence for is entitled to a duty solicitor free of charge at court for the first court hearing.  The duty solicitor is from a panel of local solicitors who take turns to be on rota for the day.  They, like the duty solicitor at the police station, will be experienced, keen to help and will do all that they can, however their time can often be taken up with other clients that they have been asked to assist at the same time and therefore their time may be limited.  We will have the time to focus on your case so we can make sure you get the best possible outcome.  We understand that attending court can be incredibly daunting and our clients appreciate the unlimited time that we have to advise, re assure you and of course prepare for your case.  Moreover if you have asked us to attend court with you in advance of your court date we would have already met with you in our office, usually read through the evidence so that we are fully prepared and of course you are too, you can be reassured knowing what to expect as opposed to walking into the court building not knowing what you face or who the duty solicitor is who will be representing you.

If I had the duty solicitor at the police station can I now have a private solicitor at court?

We are often contacted by people who although accepted the advice from the duty solicitor at the police station, would like the assistance from a more experienced solicitor who will have the time to fully prepare for their case. 

I’ve been told I might be entitled to legal aid at court – what does this mean?

If you have been accused of a crime and are on a low income you will be entitled to make a claim for legal aid (unless the offence is a minor one and you are not likely to go to prison).  We choose not to undertake legal aid work so that we can concentrate on our clients who are paying for a service they deserve.  We will happily point you towards a legal aid firm if you would like to consider making a claim for legal aid.  Unfortunately whilst legal aid lawyers have the best intentions to assist with your case, the amount of work and attention they can give your case can be limited by the low legal aid rates currently paid to legal aid lawyers.  If you pay privately for a solicitor your case preparation is not affected by these restrictions.

I still have unanswered questions?

If you are still unsure whether you would benefit from paying a solicitor represent you feel free to speak to Lucinda Dore who will always be happy to offer a free consultation on the phone, via email or in person.

Lucinda can be contacted via email lucinda@ldlegalservices.co.uk

 

 

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