Funding Your Criminal Defence

If you have been arrested or charged with a criminal offence, it is understandable to be worried about how much legal representation will cost and how you will pay for the services of an expert criminal defence lawyer.

State funding (‘legal aid’) is available to cover the cost of police station representation and, depending on the circumstances, it can cover some or all of the cost of your legal representation during any subsequent prosecution.

This guide to funding your criminal defence gives a basic overview of how legal aid works for police station representation and proceedings in Magistrates’ Court and Crown Court. For more information and to find out whether you may be entitled to legal aid for your defence, please get in touch with a member of our team.

For a free initial consultation on your legal position and funding options, contact our local offices in LondonBirmingham or Manchester.

If you have been arrested or charged with a criminal offence, you can contact us 24 hours a day, seven days a week for immediate expert advice and representation.

Funding for police station representation

Everyone is entitled to free legal advice at a police station when arrested or interviewed under caution. This also applies if you are detained by HM Revenue and Customs or the National Crime Agency.

You can choose to be represented by whichever duty solicitor is available or request your own legal adviser.

How to fund your defence for Magistrates’ Court prosecutions

If you are due to be prosecuted in a Magistrates’ Court, you can apply for a Representation Order to cover some or all of the cost of your defence. This is commonly referred to as ‘legal aid’.

To qualify for a Representation Order for a Magistrates’ Court prosecution, you will need to pass a means test and a merit test. The means test is designed to establish whether you genuinely need help funding the cost of your defence and, if so, how much financial assistance you can receive. The merit test is used to determine whether your defence is “in the interests of justice” and therefore whether you should receive funding at all.

How to fund your defence for Crown Court prosecutions

If you are  prosecuted in Crown Court, you generally only have to pass a means test to qualify for a Representation Order. This is because your defence will automatically be considered in the interests of justice because only more serious cases are heard in Crown Court.

For Crown Court prosecutions, you will normally be required to fund at least some of your legal defence costs yourself. However, if you are found not guilty, any payments you have made towards your defence costs will be refunded with interest.

Transferring a Representation Order to a new solicitor

If you are unhappy with your current legal representation and wish to be represented by a new solicitor, you are free to make that decision at any time. However, you will only be allowed to transfer a Representation Order to a new solicitor under exceptional circumstances.

This means if you wish to change legal team, you may be forced to cover the cost of your new legal representative yourself. This highlights the importance of making sure you choose the best possible criminal defence lawyer to handle your case from the outset.

Circumstances where you may be able to transfer a Representation Order to a new defence lawyer include:

  • If your existing defence solicitor has to withdraw from the case e.g. due to illness or professional reasons, such as a conflict of interest.
  • Where your relationship with your current legal team has broken down e.g. because they have given you negligent advice that has harmed your defence.
  • Where there is another “substantial compelling reason” that you need to change your legal representation, which is considered acceptable by the judge dealing with your case.

Contact our expert criminal defence lawyers now

For urgent specialist advice, immediate representation or to speak to us confidentially about any type of criminal offence, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

You can contact a member of our dedicated team of criminal defence lawyers in London, Birmingham, and Manchester by telephone on:

Brent & Camden London Office: 020 7624 7771

Manchester Office: 0161 835 1638

Birmingham Office: 0121 614 3333

City of London: 0207 624 7771 – our senior Solicitors and Partners can meet by appointment in the City.

Or email:

Alternatively, you can fill out our quick online enquiry form, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

24/7 criminal defence representation

If you have been arrested or charged with a criminal offence, you can contact our Emergency Number: 07836 577 556, and we will provide you with the urgent assistance you need.


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For new serious cases you can email a senior partner/lawyer directly by clicking here. When you call us you can request a call back or meeting the same day with a senior partner/lawyer or Barrister.