Costs of defending a motoring prosecution
The cost of advising or defending your road traffic case will vary depending upon the complexity of the case. Some are very simple and quickly dealt with, and others are not. Some can seem simple at the outset and develop unexpectedly, for example if new evidence emerges.
Clients sometimes change their minds if new information comes out and it’s just a fact of court life that cases take unforeseen turns.
One of my core professional duties as a solicitor is to deal with my clients fairly and to make sure they receive the best possible information about likely overall costs both at the time I am engaged and at appropriate stages as the work progresses. I do this both orally and in writing at the beginning of a retainer so that my clients know what lies ahead and if there are to be any variables, what they might be. Communicating clearly like this means that there should be no surprises about costs at any stage.
Most people want at least an idea what costs might be when they first speak with me and I am always happy to do that and I endeavour to be as helpful as possible.
Solicitors traditionally charge for their work in one of two broad ways; an hourly rate or a fixed fee. Even if the work is charged for by hourly rate I must give you a reasonably accurate estimate of the work ahead and explain what it will entail. However, the majority of cases that I deal with can be dealt with by agreeing a fixed fee. Clients like the certainty this brings and it completely eliminates any scope for misunderstandings.
I always ask for an initial down payment at the beginning of a case (usually called a payment on account of costs) and am happy to spread the cost of legal fees over the life of the case, with invoices sent at interim stages until proceedings are brought to a close. I usually deliver interim bills at the end of each month. My terms of business sets this all out clearly.
My initial advice is provided without charge. I am here to help and it does not usually take long to understand the problem and identify a way of dealing with it. That can be done by telephone or e mail, or a combination of the two.
This approach has worked well with my clients and an honest and direct approach allows you to properly assess whether my expertise can really help.
Once formally engaged to work for you I will agree either a fixed fee for the entire case, or where that is not possible because of its complexity I will agree fixed fees for various stages with clear guidance on overall costs to conclusion.
Fixed fees are a very good way of dealing with the majority of cases which are straightforward and reasonably predictable. They are more difficult with serious offences such as dangerous driving, incidents with fatalities or serious injuries, and those likely to lead to imprisonment. Whenever I can I will try and agree a fixed fee, but will also clearly explain why I can’t.
Recovering costs when you are successful
Until the end of 2012 it was possible for people who had successfully defended prosecutions to recover the majority of their costs from Central Funds by obtaining a Defendants’ Costs Order from the Court. The Government changed the law for proceedings commenced after October 2012 and as a consequence it is possible now to recover only a modest proportion of legal costs. The figures are actually fixed now as follows:
- £49.50 per hour for preparation;
- £62.35 per hour for advocacy;
- £26.30 for travel and waiting;
- £3.90 for routine letters and telephone calls;
- 45 pence a mile for mileage.
These changes won’t affect people who plead guilty or argue special reasons and exceptional hardship because they could never recover their costs in the first place. It only affects people who plead not guilty and who are found not guilty.
Many think this grossly unfair.
It places a much higher duty on the Crown Prosecution Service only to prosecute cases that are really justified. If the police make mistakes the Court can make costs orders against the CPS and/or the Police and I have made one successful claim against the police so far to make sure my client was not out of pocket as a result of these changes.