Our Criminal Defence team are highly experienced in criminal law and representation in the Magistrates’ and Crown Court. Our aim is that you will have confidence that you are our priority
Our team is available to advise on your arrest and detention at the Police Station 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you want help at a Police Station, ask for us at the Police Station or call our 24 hour emergency telephone number 01522 539111 and one of our representatives will attend with you. This number is also available at all local police stations. We cover all Police Stations in the Lincolnshire area and will endeavour to represent our clients at any Police Station within a reasonable distance of our offices whenever possible. Please ask for McNeil & Co when you are booked in to the custody suite. Our involvement will not delay your time in custody as we will be acting in your best interests all the time.
Representation at the Police Station and interviews by the Police/Military Police is free of charge regardless of your financial circumstances under the Legal Aid Agency’s Police Station Advice and Assistance Scheme. However, if you have had advice from another firm of solicitors about the same matter in the last 6 months Legal Aid is only available if we have can justify giving you separate advice about the same matter. Alternatively we can discuss a private funding arrangement with you.
Police Station representation and representation in interviews conducted by Military Police is free of charge to everyone as we are funded through our contract with the Legal Aid Agency.
It is impossible to predict how long a Police investigation will take without taking the particular circumstances of the investigation in question into account as there are many variables. Some matters end straight away after the first interview, e.g. if no further action is taken or if the person being interviewed accepts a caution. Some matters can take months or even years to investigate e.g. if there are a lot of forensic enquiries to be made.
If you have been asked to attend an interview under caution by an agency other than the Police, for example the Local Authority, RSPCA, HMRC, Immigration or the Insolvency Service, then our Criminal Defence team can assist.
If there is going to be an officer with a power of arrest present during the interview, we can represent you free of charge under the Police Station Advice and Assistance Scheme.
If there is no officer with a power of arrest present, we will have to assess your eligibility for funding under the Legal Aid Agency’s Freestanding Advice and Assistance Scheme. This involves an assessment of your income and capital against limits imposed by the Legal Aid Agency. If you are eligible then we can represent you for free, otherwise we will have to discuss a private funding arrangement with you.
We will always advise you about appropriate methods of funding your case.
It is impossible to predict how long an investigation will take without taking the particular circumstances of the investigation in question into account as there are many variables. Some matters end straight away after the first interview, e.g. if no further action is taken or if the person being interviewed accepts a caution. Some matters can take months or even years to investigate e.g. if there are a lot of forensic enquiries to be made.
If you are charged with a criminal offence, you will first appear in the Magistrates’ or Youth Court. If we represented you at the police station then we will continue to do so at court. If we did not, it is still not too late to contact us in order for you to instruct us prior or at your first appearance. We are also included on the Court Duty Solicitor rota at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court and we may be able to represent you as Duty Solicitor if your hearing is on a date when we are scheduled to be duty.
We will then be able to advise you regarding the strength of the evidence and take your instructions prior to a plea being entered. If appropriate we will also assist in making an application for legal aid.
If you have not committed the offence as alleged by the Police and Crown Prosecution Service, you should plead not guilty and in due course a trial will be fixed. McNeil & Co has more experienced trial advocates than any other firm in Lincoln and have established a reputation for achieving not guilty verdicts.
Many of our clients qualify for Legal Aid. If Legal Aid is granted, this means we can represent you free of charge. Legal Aid applications are subject to two tests: a merits test and a means test. The merits test requires that it be in the interests of justice for Legal Aid to be granted. This usually means that the case must be serious enough or that Legal Aid should be granted for some other reason e.g. if the Defendant suffers with mental health issues.
If you earn too much to qualify for Legal Aid or are charged with an offence that does not carry custody, such as some road traffic offences, we can act for you on a privately paying basis. We will set out the cost of the work in advance so that you are aware of the exact costs at the outset of the case and in most cases we are able to offer our clients a ‘fixed fee’ so that the client has certainty regarding the total costs to be incurred.
If at trial you are found not guilty or you case is dismissed, we can apply for costs from Central Funds. This means you may recover some, if not all, of your costs you paid to us.
Many Magistrates’ Court cases conclude at the first hearing where you plead guilty. In such cases the court will either sentence you straight away or adjourn for a pre-sentence report. Some pre-sentence reports are prepared the same day and in other cases the matter is adjourned to a new date.
If you plead not guilty, a trial date will need to be fixed. A trial is where the court hears evidence and then decides if you are guilty or not. Most cases finish on or slightly after the trial date. If after hearing evidence at a trial the court finds you not guilty, the case will end at that point. If the court finds you guilty then you will either be sentenced straight away or the case will be adjourned for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.
In normal times, it is rare for a Magistrates’ Court case to last any longer than six months. However, with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the Courts are not hearing as many cases as they usually would and many cases are being adjourned a number of times. This is increasing the time that cases take to complete.
Based on the presumption that you have a date for your hearing the key stages of your matter are as follows:
• Meet with your solicitor to provide instructions on what happened.
• We will consider initial disclosure, and any other evidence and provide advice.
• Arranging to take any witness statements if necessary.
• We will explain the court procedure to you so you know what to expect on the day of your hearing, and the sentencing options available to the court.
• We will conduct any further preparatory work, obtain further instructions from you if necessary and answer any follow up queries you have.
• We cannot provide a timescale of when your hearing will take place, as this depends on the court listing for that day.
• We will attend court on the day and meet with you before going before the court.
• We will discuss the outcome of the hearing with you. A brief initial opinion on an appeal will be part of the fixed fee but drafting of an appeal notice or full written advice will carry an additional cost.
Our Criminal Defence Department has unparalleled experience in representing clients charged with the most serious offences including but not limited to: –
• serious sexual offences
• large, complex & serious frauds
• serious drugs offences
• armed robberies
• serious violence
• large-scale conspiracies &
• proceeds of crime act proceedings (POCAs)
Please contact our Lincoln Office if you require representation at the Crown Court. We can represent clients who qualify for Legal Aid or those who choose to instruct us on a private paying basis.
If you have less than £37,500 disposable income per year, you will qualify for Legal Aid in the Crown Court. However, depending upon your income, you may have to pay contributions from your income towards your Legal Aid. If you have to pay contributions and are acquitted at the end of the case, you will get your income contributions back with interest. In the event that you are found Guilty or plead Guilty, if there is a shortfall between the income contributions you have paid and the cost of our claim and your Barrister’s claim, the Legal Aid Agency may require you to pay a contribution from your capital as well. If, however, your income contributions exceeded the amount of our claim and your Barrister’s claim, you will get back the excess amount you have paid.
If Legal Aid is granted this will cover our cost for representing you and instructing a Barrister to represent you. In very serious cases it will also cover the costs of instructing a KC (Kings Counsel) Barrister on your behalf. In less serious cases, Legal Aid will not cover the instruction of a KC and unfortunately we are unable to accept payment either from you or any third party to instruct a KC on a private basis in cases where Legal Aid has been granted as this is not allowed by the Legal Aid Agency under their “topping up” provisions. The only way to instruct a KC in such circumstances would be to withdraw your Legal Aid and pay us to act for you privately.
We will be able to advise you about whether you are likely to qualify for Legal Aid with or without contributions. We will be able to make the application for Legal Aid on your behalf (subject to you providing us with the required information in support of the application).
If you are not eligible for Legal Aid or would prefer to pay privately, then we can also represent clients on a private client basis.
There is a disadvantage to paying privately, as opposed to applying for Legal Aid, which you should be aware of. That is that in the event you are found not guilty (or the case is discontinued early), if you have the benefit of Legal Aid then any contributions will be paid back with interest. If you have paid privately then you will not get back ANY of your costs unless you have made an application for Legal Aid which has been refused. If you have made an application for Legal Aid which has been refused and have then proceeded to pay privately, you will only be entitled to your costs back at Legal Aid rates.
There are far too many variables to estimate how long a Crown Court case will take without taking into account the particular circumstances of the individual case. We will be able to keep you updated as to the likely timescales. Some cases finish at the first hearing and it can take others years to reach a conclusion. Much of it will depend upon your plea, whether you are charged alone or jointly charged with anyone else and the complexity of the case.
McNeil & Co’s Criminal Defence team have a solid record of successful Appeals both in the Crown Court and Court of Appeal in London. If we feel that your case was not dealt with properly or there was an error of judgment during your trial we will advise you with regards to appealing a decision in the Crown Court.
We are based in Lincoln and are happy to serve the whole of Lincolnshire.
141-142 High Street, Lincoln LN5 7PJ