Public Funding in Criminal Cases

Reasons for public funding

Public funding is available for the majority of criminal cases; in order to protect the liberty, livelihood and reputation of citizens. Access to justice is extremely important. European laws also protect free legal advice in criminal cases. The European Convention on Human Rights states that anyone charged with a criminal offence is entitled to defend themselves in person or with free legal assistant if they cannot pay for it themselves. Previously, the Legal Aid Scheme was in place to assist funding for criminal cases. This scheme is no longer in use and has been replaced by the laws discussed below. Public law centres and Citizens Advice Bureaus also offer free legal advice but these bodies may not be available for representation.

The law surrounding public funding

The law in England and Wales is currently governed by the Access to Justice Act (AJA) 1999 and the Criminal Defence Service Act 2006. The Legal Services Commission was set up. The Commission then set up the Criminal Defence Service (CDS), to give people charged with criminal offences (defendants) access to free legal advice and representation if needed. The CDS maintain contracts with private law firms and also defence lawyers employed by the government’s Public Defender Service.

Representation available at police station

There are a number of services available to the public, depending on their circumstances and the stage they are at in criminal proceedings.  Firstly, a duty solicitor is often needed when someone is arrested and detained at a police station.  As part of European and current Police laws, everyone has the right to a solicitor at this stage.

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For more information on:

  • Applying for representation
  • Interests of Justice Test
  • Means Test
  • Representation for the duration of the trial