I have represented many clients who have been found not guilty, the court always order that their legal costs are refunded. This is of course only fair, they have been falsely accused of something so why should they be out of pocket for defending their name?
This is about to change if the Government get their way, they want to limit the amount that the client can reclaim to legal aid rates.
I remember a recent case that I felt very strongly about, a woman was accused of drink driving. Because of health problems she was unable to properly provide a specimen of breath. She did manage one sample which showed she was below the limit, however despite trying as hard as she could she was not able to provide the second sample, she was charged with failing to provide a sample and faced losing her licence and livelihood. All this despite clear evidence she had not been drink driving. She managed to raise the money to be represented by a specialist and thankfully she won and the money that she had borrowed was paid back to her. Under the new proposals she would have received less than half of her money back.
Many people charged with motoring offences are innocent, taking on the legal system can be a scary prospect but they are safe in the knowledge that their costs will be refunded when they win.
It’s right of course that the government should not provide an open cheque book for falsely accused defendants. The current system works well, any bill presented has to be supported by a full breakdown of the work done, this is assessed by government officials and they only pay what they feel is reasonable. To reduce the rate to legal Aid rates means that a lot of innocent people will be unfairly punished. Legal Aid is designed for the high volume lawyers, doing 10 to 15 cases a day, even those legal aid lawyers who provide a high volume, are struggling to survive at legal aid rates.
Those falsely accused deserve to have a Roll Royce service with no stone left unturned to prove their innocence, they should not have to take half measures, worried about costs.