How to claim court expenses and legal costs if you are acquitted
This page is advice kindly submitted by one of our members and describes their experience of claiming back some of the costs of defending their innocence in court
• Since our acquittal in March 2016 we have spent 4 months chasing the expenses that the judge ordered that we could claim, and our solicitors have applied for the equivalent of what legal aid costs would have been if they had been awarded. None of this information is easily available, so we think this short note may help people who are in the same situation as us. Keep receipts for everything you spend.
• Since the abolition of the Defendant’s Cost Order in 2012, there are new sets of rules about how privately paying acquitted defendants (who have been refused legal aid) can get some of their costs and expenses back. The most important thing is that Immediately on being found not guilty your barrister applies to the judge for your expenses and costs to be awarded (so the judge still makes a defendant’s cost order), and should also ask for these to cover your appearances in magistrates’ court. If the latter is not done, you will not get legal costs re this, but you can claim for expenses to the magistrates’ court separately.
• Your out of pocket expenses can be reclaimed using an ordinary witness expenses claim form which you can get from the Crown Court office.
• We claimed for a taxi back home from the custody suite as it was nowhere near any public transport, and we had no money with us (as advised on arrest at home). They paid this.
• Mileage: mileage from home to court, to meetings with your solicitor and barrister, to police stations for bail surrender, can all be claimed. There are 2 rates: the basic one is 25p per mile, but if you have comprehensive car insurance it is 45p per mile (no one tells you this, so claim 45p and scan/copy a copy of your insurance and attach to the application).
• Motorway tolls were paid
• Subsistence is paid at £26 per person per day
• Hotel expenses are paid to a maximum of £65 per person per night. Only one night is allowed for every day in court (so we were expected to drive 280 miles to court, book a hotel to be in court at 9 in the morning, and even if only released at 5, so then drive 280 miles home!)
• 2nd class Train fares are fully covered
• The cost of evidence letters, such as a letter from the GP, is not covered.
• Your witnesses of fact can claim expenses on the same rates as above, but not character witnesses.
If you have been turned down for legal aid by both the magistrates’ and crown courts, you seem to be able to claim a proportion of your legal costs, but these are paid at the equivalent of legal aid rates. There is a form 5911 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-for-criminal-court-costs-from-central-funds-form-5911) which must be submitted by your solicitor within 3 months of the date that the court made the costs order (probably the date you were acquitted)
I cannot work out how our barrister’s costs were calculated, but the following rates apply to solicitors:
1. Reading disclosures £48.36 per hour
2. Preparing bail applications £48.36 per hour
3. Attendance at court where a barrister is
Instructed £38.55 per hour
4. Travel 45 p per mile
5. Travel time £22.58 per hour
6. Waiting time in court £22.58 per hour
7. Letters, faxes. E-mails etc £3.15 per item
8. Parking covered.
You can see why legal aid firms are disappearing!