10th December 2012

A Defence Costs Order is something you get if you have been falsely accused of a crime, you pay for your own defence, and you win your case.

Changes to the rates paid under a Defendant's Costs Order came into force in October 2012. Defendants in the Magistrates Court who win their cases will now only be able to recover costs at the same rate as Legal Aid rate payments. This means that Defendants who are not eligible for Legal Aid will have to pay a substantial amount of money to defend themselves.

A Defendant not eligible for Legal Aid could expect to pay a solicitor in the region of £180.00 per hour for all work carried out, unless they could agree a fixed fee. If the Defendant wins his case and gets a Defendant's Costs Order he can expect to be awarded about a quarter of the hourly rate and substantially less than any agreed fee.

So if you are prosecuted by the state and you are not eligible for Legal Aid, it could cost you several thousand pounds for the privilege of proving that you are not guilty in the first place.

On any measure of fairness how can this be right? It seems that unless you are very poor or very rich, fairness and justice will no longer apply to you.