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Serious changes to the structure of Legal Aid in the pipeline

Published: 26th October 2011 at 09:34:45

There are serious changes to the structure of legal aid in the pipe line. As the object is to save money by the Government it is inevitable that legal aid will be cut back. This will be achieved 2 ways.


1.    Eligibility will be reduced by making the financial test more onerous. This is particularly the case for the self employed and for cases in the Crown Court where even the equity (profit) in your home is taken into account.

2.    Certain classes of work will be excluded from legal aid or made more difficult to access e.g. family financial claims.


In addition, the route to legal aid in family matters will require a first visit to a Mediation Service to see if Mediation is going to work for you, an 'Assessment Meeting'.


We wholeheartedly support Mediation for the majority of  family cases and urge you to co-operate with the new system which will be in place from April 6th 2011.


Read what the Judges of England think of these proposals, their knowledge of the problems and issues you face may surprise you!




R v Defendant. D pleaded guilty to assault ABH on 2 people with a metal baseball bat. He also pleaded guilty to possessing an offensive weapon (the baseball bat). Bad bruising to legs and backs was seen and the whole incident captured on CCTV.


Our Chris Nicholls represented him as our Higher Court Advocate (HCA) in the Crown Court where he received a suspended prison sentence of 52 weeks suspended for 18months and had to do unpaid work in the community.



   In Charge – the Defence

   If you are only charged with being 'In Charge” of your motor vehicle you may be able to argue a defence provided by law that there is no likelihood of you driving again while you are over the limit. Invariably this will require evidence form a forensic scientist to calibrate the time at which all alcohol will have been removed from your body – at least down to the legal limit of 35 in breath – before it is legal to drive off again.


   We have access to such scientists and the cost is not as much as you may think.


   R v Defendant. D was in the habit of drinking heavily on a Friday night and sleeping it off in a supermarket car park before returning to his home town 200 miles away the next day – Saturday. He was arrested at 1.30am on suspicion of being 'In Charge” of his vehicle while over the limit. So far so bad.

However, with forensic evidence it was possible to satisfy the court  that he would have been under 35 in breath when he started his journey at 6.30am. His evidence of his habits was accepted as it was his normal routine.

Another satisfied client for C. Nicholls  solicitors.




Drink Driving – Special Reasons – shortness of distance


D. had arranged for his usual taxi to come to take him home after a few drinks in his local on a Sunday night. Before the taxi had arrived D went  to collect his belongings from the car when he realised he had parked in a position that would make it difficult for deliveries to the pub the next day having parked in the delivery zone of the Pub. He went out of the pub and drove his car into the public car park almost opposite the pub – about 80metres. He was seen by the police who were already in the car park.


Understandably the police wanted speak with the D, smelt alcohol on his breath and he was arrested for being over the limit. He was subsequently charged with drink driving.


At his court hearing he had entered a Guilty plea to Drink Driving – a reading of 57 – not unusually high. However, we were able to satisfy the court that the driving was for a specific purpose and was over a relatively short distance not putting the public at danger in view of the time of night it was driven. There was no accident and the manner of driving was not in question. Further, the taxi driver came to court to explain that this was a usual fare for him – 2 or 3 times per week - and that D was going to take his taxi home. (The police had thought D was intending to drive himself home and only pulled into the car park when he saw the police car).


It was held that the reason for D's driving and the short distance was a Special Reason and although guilty of driving over the limit D would not be disqualified.


This case illustrates the significance of a Special Reasons argument (saving the licence) and how proper preparation and calling all available evidence is essential in getting this very favourable outcome.