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Your criminal defence questions answered

Find out more about the Public Defender Service and get answers to your criminal defence questions.

We can help you if you are accused of a crime or need first-class defence representation in court.

About the Public Defender Service

Which areas of law can the PDS help me with?

The PDS specialise in criminal legal aid, including proceedings brought under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, military law, court martial and prison law.

Find out more about the work of the Public Defender Service.

Does the PDS work for the police, the government or the courts?

No. The PDS is part of the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), which is part of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), but it remains wholly independent and will act only in your best interests.

Help with interviews and investigations

The police want to speak to me as a volunteer, what does that mean, do I need a lawyer?

Yes. Attending at a police station for a voluntary interview means you will not be formally arrested. It also means that you’re permitted to leave at any stage. What you say or don’t say in interview could, however, have significant implications. Do not under-estimate the importance of legal advice, especially at such an early stage of a criminal investigation. 

On arrival, you will most likely be interviewed on suspicion of committing or being involved in the commission of a criminal offence. You will be interviewed under ‘caution’ which means:

You do not have to say anything, but it might harm your defence if you fail to mention, when questioned, something you really on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence’.

The Local Authority want to speak to me about my benefits claim as fraud is suspected, do I need a lawyer?

Yes. You will most certainly be interviewed under caution which means: ‘You do not have to say anything, but it might harm your defence, if you fail to mention, when questioned, something you really on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence’.

Benefit fraud is a serious criminal offence for which early legal advice is advised.

English is not my first language, will I be provided with an interpreter?

Yes. If you are to be questioned about your suspected involvement in a crime, you will be provided with an interpreter to assist you throughout the criminal investigation. You will further be provided with an interpreter should matters proceed to court.

Do I need an ‘appropriate adult’?

If you are a youth (under 18 years old) and/or considered vulnerable due to learning difficulties or a mental health issue/disorder, you will be provided with a responsible appropriate adult. 

The role of the appropriate adult can be summarised as follows:

  • To support and assist you, particularly whilst you are being questioned
  • To observe the police/investigators, to ensure that they are acting fairly and respectfully towards you
  • To help facilitate with communication
  • To ensure that you understand your rights

You may request a suitable family member, friend or colleague. Otherwise, the police will request the attendance of a suitably qualified appropriate adult.

Not all persons are considered appropriate for the role. For example, an estranged parent, a person with a low IQ, a person suspected of being involved in the commission of a crime with you or a solicitor acting in a professional capacity – neither can act for you as your appropriate adult.    

I’ve been ‘Released Under Investigation’ (RUI), what does that mean?

The police are currently investigating your suspected involvement in a crime(s) and so you have been released from police custody pending further enquiries and investigations. 

Commonly, the police will be speaking to potential witnesses, searching for incriminating evidence, viewing CCTV footage, obtaining forensic and telephony evidence.  

If you are RUI it might be indefinitely, so legal advice should be obtained.

The police have seized my property, how can I get my property back?

The police will often seize items such as clothing, footwear, vehicles, phones, laptops, if considered relevant to the crime or crimes they are investigating. If the items are not of ‘evidential value’ they should be returned to you promptly. Alternatively, if the item or items seized provide supporting evidence against you, then you will only be able to apply for their return, on the conclusion of the case against you.  

Find out more about our specialist expertise defending POCA and confiscation cases.

I’ve just received a Postal Requisition ordering me to attend at a magistrates’ court, what does this mean, do I need a lawyer?

Yes. Receiving a Postal Requisition requiring you to attend court is important. If you fail to attend, without a reasonable explanation, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. Following which, you could be arrested, held in police custody and produced before the next available court.

Immediately upon receipt of a Postal Requisition, you are best advised to obtain legal advice regarding the criminal justice system in England and Wales, the nature of the offence(s) alleged, in addition to attending to legal aid and funding issues.  

What is criminal legal aid, and how is it assessed?

Advice and assistance at the police station is free of charge, irrespective of your financial means.

In the magistrates’ court, legal aid is means tested. You will either be considered ‘in scope’ or ‘out of scope’. Legal advice is therefore advised to determine your eligibility.

Your financial situation will be assessed, in addition to any rent or mortgage repayments, as well as the number of dependent children you are responsible for.

In the Crown Court, legal aid is again means tested. Dependent on your financial situation, your accommodation costs and dependents, you’ll either qualify for legal aid, be refused legal aid or ordered to make a contribution towards your legal costs.

The police told me to speak to the ‘Court Duty Solicitor’ at court; is the ‘Court Duty Solicitor’ any good?

The ‘Court Duty Solicitor’ will be an experienced solicitor appearing at court to advise and represent the best interests of those who have not instructed their own solicitor.

The court duty solicitor will be able to act if you appear in custody and/or appear before the magistrates’ court in respect of an imprisonable offence.

If you are facing a minor non-imprisonable offence such as driving without a valid certificate of insurance or being drunk and disorderly in a public place, you will not qualify to be represented by the court duty solicitor. Equally, if your case is listed for trial, again, you will be outside the remit of the court duty solicitor.

I’ve recently been sentenced in a criminal court, can I appeal?

If sentenced at the magistrates’ court, you have an automatic right of appeal to the crown court. If you were sentenced at a crown court, you can only appeal the sentence imposed if the sentence was either wrong in law or manifestly excessive. If so, ‘Grounds of Appeal’ will need to be served and lodged with the Court of Appeal in London.

Legal advice is advised to discuss the merits of your case.

What’s ‘Tag’ and who qualifies for such?

Some prisoners can be released early subject to an electronically monitored curfew, requiring them to be at home between nine and twelve hours daily. Early release is often referred to as ‘Tag’. 

Prisoners serving sentences of more than three months, but less than four years, who are over 18 years of age will qualify unless they are:

  • A ‘Category A’ prisoner
  • Liable for deportation 
  • Detained under the Mental Health Act 1983
  • Required to register under Part 1 of the Sex Offenders Act 1997
  • Civil prisoners (those detained for fine default or contempt of court)
  • In breach of their ‘Tag’ or that they failed to return to custody following temporary release 

What’s ‘Post-Sentence Supervision’ (PSS)?

Offenders sentenced to more than 1 day, but less than 2 years' immediate custody will be subject to PSS, the aim of which is rehabilitation.

PSS will apply to all offences committed on or after 01 February 2015 and the offender is 18 years or older at the half-way point of the sentence imposed.

The term of the PSS period depends on the term of the licence period, as the two combined will result in a 12-month long community period. 

On release, an offender will be subject to PSS requirements. Any breach can have implications, so legal advice is advised. 

The CPS have written to me about my assets and referred to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, what does this mean?

Proceedings brought under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 can be complex with wide ranging implications regarding your assets and finances. Immediate legal advice should be obtained on receipt of any such proceedings. 

Find out more about how our POCA defence barristers and advocates can help you.

What does modern slavery mean?

Organised criminal gangs exploit vulnerable individuals and traffic them from abroad to the UK. Exploitation tends to include forced criminality, most commonly related to drug networks. Forced labour in illegal activities such as the cultivation of cannabis. Others are forced into the sex trade and/or shoplifting for criminal gangs.

Find out more about what modern slavery means and how we can help.