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Criminal cases


Criminal legal advice is provided free of charge by the state if you have been arrested by the police.

If you would like to receive legal advice the state will contact a call centre on your behalf, where they will decide if telephone advice is sufficient for your needs, or whether you should be allocated a solicitor. 

What is a criminal case?

A criminal case is investigated by the police in order to find someone culpable for the crime. Human nature is such that the police are fallible and sometimes make mistakes, and it then falls to the court to find a person either guilty or not guilty. 

Occasionally the court also makes mistakes. After a person’s appeal rights are exhausted and a person is sentenced it may be that the only way to get the case looked at again is by making an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission. 

The Commission investigates alleged miscarriages of justice and if appropriate, refers the cases to the appeal courts. The appeal courts then sometimes quash the conviction and sometimes uphold it.

There have been several very famous cases where the convicted have served large portions of their sentences before it has been found that the conviction was unsafe.

  • The Criminal Cases Review Commission was set up in 1997 following a number of high-profile unsafe convictions, including the ‘Birmingham Six’ who were convicted on the basis of unsafe expert evidence
  • If a person feels their conviction is unsafe then they can make an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission; however, it is statistically unlikely that the convicted person will get their case referred to the appeal courts
  • Applications to the Commission are only eligible for a small amount of legal aid and many solicitors do not like to complete these applications as they are not lucrative. Even if help from a solicitor is available, the applicant will not be able to instruct experts as funding for this is not available

What is the role of a criminal solicitor?

If you are allocated a solicitor following an arrest, they will first contact you by telephone to give you some basic advice; as the telephone line from the police station is not secure, you should not say anything on this phone that you are not happy for the police to hear.

Due to funding, your solicitor is unlikely to attend the police station until the police are ready to interview you. The solicitor is only likely to attend the police station immediately if you allege abuse by the police or you feel mentally unstable.

When the solicitor attends the police station they will take you to a private room in the police station where they will give you criminal legal advice.

Your solicitor will have obtained some information about the evidence the police have against you and will tell you about this. Your solicitor will then advise you as to whether or not you should answer questions from the police.

If you have a defence, it is almost always a good idea to put this forward at this stage in the proceedings - failure to do so may mean a judge or jury do not believe you at your trial.

For further advice on using your own legal representation, see our page on criminal solicitors.

Do you have a criminal case for which you would like to instruct your own criminal lawyer, rather than the duty solicitor? Contact Law can discuss the needs of your case and recommend a specialist in the sub-area of law your case requires. Please call us on 0800 046 1464 or complete the web-form above.

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