If you’re entering a fraud case you may be wondering how to fund it and if you’re entitled to legal aid funding.
There are a number of ways to fund your case both at the police station and at court.
- You can apply for legal aid and get all or part of your case paid for
- You can pay for your legal team privately
- You could have insurance in place to cover your legal costs
Legal Aid and How It Works
Legal Funding at the Police Station
If you are going to be interviewed by the police under caution or have been arrested you are always entitled to FREE legal advice and representation. You will not incur any costs for this legal representation whilst at the police station.
In the majority of complex fraud cases, the police are likely to release you from the police station to make further inquiries before a decision is made on whether to proceed with a case against you. During this time you are usually not covered by the police station advice and assistance scheme.
Legal Funding at the Magistrates Court
To get a legal aid representation order an application has to be made to the court. The application is subject to two tests.
The first test is called the “interests of justice”. A representation order will be granted if the court considers your case “serious enough” for you to need full legal representation. All fraud conspiracy cases are serious and should pass this test.
If you are charged with an “indictable only” offence (an offence that can only be heard in the Crown Court) your case will always satisfy this first test. Conspiracy to defraud or commit fraud offences is indictable only offences.
Legal Funding at the Crown Court
If your case goes to the Crown Court you will automatically qualify for legal aid representation once you have completed an application form. However, how much you or your partner earn will determine how much you have to contribute to the cost of your defence. This is the second test known as ‘the means test’.
When you have been means tested, you may have to pay towards the cost of your defence. This contribution could be from your income whilst the case is ongoing and/or from your capital if you are convicted.
You will be asked to provide evidence of your income and assets. If you do not your payments could be increased which will result in you paying more towards your defence costs. If you do not tell the truth on your legal aid application you could also be prosecuted. It is therefore important to speak to lawyers who can assist you with your application.
You will not have to pay towards the costs of your case if you receive any of the following benefits:
- Income support
- Income-based job seekers allowance
- Guaranteed state pension credit
- Income-related employment
- Support allowance
You may have to pay towards the costs if your monthly disposable income is above a certain level. If this is the case, you will receive a Contribution Order from the court and you will have to make payments as required under the order. The first payment will be due within 28 days of your case being committed, sent or transferred to the Crown Court.
You must tell the court about any changes to your financial circumstances during your case because a change may affect the amount you have to pay towards your defence costs. At the end of the case, if you are found not guilty, any payments you have made will be refunded to you with interest. If you paid late or not at all and action was taken against you, the cost of this action will be deducted from the refund.
If you are found guilty, you may have to pay towards your defence costs from any capital assets you have. You will be told at the end of your case if you have to make a payment from capital.
Changing your Solicitor
There are a number of circumstances where you may wish to change solicitors.
You may be dissatisfied with the service you are getting or you might be concerned that your solicitors represent other people in your case and you may want separate independent legal advice.
If you have not been charged with fraud and have not been granted legal aid for the court proceedings, then transferring your case is simple and straightforward.
It is possible to change your solicitor and have legal aid transferred however it is now quite difficult to do this.
If the Court agrees that your current solicitors have to withdraw for professional reasons (for example they have a professional conflict with other co-accused that they also represent) then the Court is likely to transfer your legal aid.
In addition, if the Court agrees that there has been a breakdown in the relationship between you and the existing solicitor, such that effective representation can no longer be provided then the court is likely to allow the transfer of legal aid to new solicitors to help with legal funding.
You must show that the relationship between you and your existing solicitor has totally broken down and you can’t work together any more. The Court is also likely to transfer legal aid to a new solicitor if it believes that there was some other substantial compelling reason.
Legal Funding Insurance
You may have insurance in place to help with legal funding and there are a number of different policies that are in place that could assist you in your funding.
You may, for example, have ‘directors and officers liability insurance’ in place. Under this insurance policy, all directors and officers of your company would be covered and it also extends to include managers and key employees. Insurance companies will often try and put you in contact with solicitors on their ‘panel’ who are unlikely to be fraud specialists.