JFH Crime have a dedicated team of extradition solicitors and barristers, who will provide advice and assistance where ever possible.
Legal Aid and Fees
Will my car insurance cover my legal costs if I am charged with a driving offence?
If you have been arrested for a driving offence*, including dangerous driving or careless driving, and you have legal expenses insurance cover as part of your motor insurance policy then your insurers may cover the cost of your legal representation.
Be aware that your insurer will try to encourage you to use one of their ‘panel’ solicitors, we believe that this is in order to minimize their costs, not to give you the best possible chance of an acquittal. You have the right to choose the solicitor or barrister that you would like to represent you.
Legal costs protection may be included in the terms of your motor insurance without necessarily being obvious. If you are not eligible for legal aid your insurance company could be a very important potential source of funding for your case. There may be restrictions on how and when you can claim from your insurance provider so it is important that you contact a solicitor and your insurance company as soon as possible.
If you would like us to check the terms of your insurance policy, to see if you have legal costs protection, we will be happy to do so. Email one of our specialist road traffic lawyers or call us on 0207 388 1658.
*There are some driving offences that will automatically invalidate your car insurance policy.
Can I get legal aid?
Legal aid is available for many criminal defendants. Whether you are eligible will depend upon what level of assistance you need and what your financial circumstances are.
At the police station
All advice and assistance in the police station can be funded by legal aid regardless of your income. There are limitations on the level of service provided under legal aid. If you require a greater level of assistance, or wish to speak with a solicitor about your case away from the police station, you can also pay privately. Please contact us or call us on 020 7428 6311 to discuss our rates.
Many other agencies, such as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), interview people before starting court proceedings. In many cases legal aid is available, depending upon your financial circumstances.
If you are not financially eligible then you can pay privately to be represented. Contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert solicitors and to discuss our rates.
At the Magistrates’ Court
Representation in the Magistrates’ Court is now subject to 2 tests:
1. The ‘merits test’ considers the seriousness of your case and whether it is in the ‘interests of justice’ for you to be legally represented. This can include the nature of the offence, whether you have previous convictions and whether there is a risk of custody (prison); and
2. The ‘means test’ considers your financial circumstances and those of your partner.
If your case passes the ‘merits test’ above you will automatically qualify for legal aid if:
- You are under 18; or
- Your total income (i.e. yours + your partner’s income) per year is £12,475 before tax or less; or
- You receive specific state benefits, including:
– Income Support
– Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA)
– Universal Credit
– Guaranteed State Pension Credit
– Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
If you earn less than £22,325 each year you may also be eligible, but a full financial test will be applied to take into account household outgoings.
If you earn above £22,325 each year then you will not be eligible for legal aid in the Magistrates’ Court. There are limitations on the level of service provided under legal aid rates, and many of our clients prefer to take advantage of our competitive private rates, contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to discuss privately funding your case.
At the Crown Court
Representation in the Crown Court is now also subject to the ‘merits’ and ‘means’ tests. However, in the Crown Court if you exceed the financial eligibility threshold then you can still receive legal aid, but you will be asked to pay contributions towards this funding. The amount of these contributions will depend upon your disposable income. You will be required to provide evidence of your income to the Legal Aid Agency, who will decide what level of contribution you will make.
Alternatively, many clients feel that when facing one of the most serious challenges of their life, they would prefer to privately fund their case in order to ensure the highest possible level of service available. Contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to discuss your eligibility or private funding arrangements.
The police want to speak to me. What should I do?
If the police want to speak you to about a criminal investigation then this could be either as a suspect or as a witness. In either case, you are entitled to have a solicitor present. So the simple answer to this question is: call us and we will help.
If you are a suspect in a criminal investigation then the police will usually arrest you in order to conduct a formal interview under caution. We would advise you always to seek the help of a JFH Law criminal solicitor. Legal aid is available if you are a suspect, see Can I get legal aid?
If you know you are going to be arrested, or have been asked to attend the police station for an interview, you can contact a solicitor before you go, and take them with you.
We can liaise with the police on your behalf to try to agree a suitably convenient time for you to attend the police station. If you would like us to assist you, then contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert solicitors. In an emergency you can call our 24 hour helpline on 07939 958767.
Alternatively, you can exercise your right to speak to a solicitor when you are in the police station. You can ask to speak to a specific solicitor, and the police will make efforts to contact that solicitor for you. Or you can choose to speak to the duty solicitor.
I think the police suspect me of a crime, what should I do?
If you know that you are suspected by the police of committing a criminal offence and the police have attended your family home looking for you or you have seen your picture in the ‘wanted’ section of local paper or online you may be thinking what you should do next.
The chances are that the police will eventually catch up with you. If the police are having trouble locating you, it is likely that they will attend your home in the early hours of the morning or they will attend your place of work. You will be arrested at a time that is inconvenient to you, you will be searched, you will have your DNA, fingerprints and photo taken and you will spend time in a police cell.
There is another option. If you contact us we are able to make enquiries with the police on your behalf. We can contact the Officer in the Case (OIC) to see if you are indeed a police suspect and make arrangements for you to attend the police station as a volunteer to be interviewed.
This could be the difference between a rude awakening at 6:00am or a more convenient time of your choosing. You may not want those you live with to be aware of your arrest, a voluntary surrender means that the police are far less likely to be knocking on your door again.
What happens if I get arrested?
What happens from the moment you are arrested can be vital in determining the outcome of the case and so we would strongly advise anyone who is arrested to seek the help of our experienced duty solicitors.
Once arrested it will generally be because the police wish to question you in relation to your suspected involvement in a criminal offence. By having legal representation at the police station you can ensure that your representative protects your legal rights and advises you on the strength of any potential case against you from an early stage.
The things you say and do from the moment you are arrested and cautioned can potentially be noted by a police officer and used against you as evidence if your case is taken to court.
By having a solicitor at the police station you can ensure that any potential defence you may have is raised from the outset. This could avoid an adverse inference being drawn against you if your case is taken to court.
Remember JFH Law’s advice and assistance at the police station is free and independent. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to a qualified and experienced criminal solicitor if you require our help. In an emergency you can call our 24 hour helpline on 07939 958767.
What are my rights while at the police station?
You have a number of rights while at the police station which include the right to speak to a ‘free and independent solicitor’.
Your other rights are: the right to have someone informed that you have been arrested and the right to see a copy of the Codes of Practice covering police powers and procedures.
If you are under 18 or suffer from a disability, such as learning difficulties, then you are also entitled to have an ‘appropriate adult’ present. This can be an adult known to you, and unconnected with the investigation, or a volunteer from social services or another agency. An appropriate adult is different to a legal adviser so you should ensure that you do take up your right to legal advice.
The police have the power to take your photograph, your fingerprints and a sample of your DNA (a mouth swab). The police can also get authorisation to take further samples and can ask you take part in an identification procedure depending upon the type of case you are a suspect in.
Your right to free and independent legal advice includes advice over the telephone as well as in person. If in doubt ensure that you ask for advice from one of our experienced solicitors at JFH Law on 020 7388 1658.
Our advice and assistance at the police station is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is free of charge.
If you are unsure about whether the police are entitled to be doing something then do not hesitate to contact us.
How long can I be kept at the police station?
If you are arrested then the police have the power to detain you at a police station for the purposes of the investigation for up to 24 hours in the first instance.
There are cases when an extension to this can be granted, first for up to a further 12 hours, with the authority of an Inspector; then for a further 36 hours with the permission of a magistrates’ court. A further extension can be sought from the magistrates’ court, up to a maximum of 96 hours.
Although you can initially be kept at the police station for 24 hours, the police have an obligation to ensure that they deal with your case expeditiously. A Police Inspector will conduct regular reviews to ensure that the officer dealing with your case is doing so efficiently. It is important to remember that requesting a solicitor will not delay your release.
Having a confident and competent solicitor present not only ensures that your rights are protected, but it also can result in the police being persuaded to take a more favourable course of action.
If you have been detained at the police station and require advice and assistance then contact us immediately on 020 7388 1658.
What happens after my interview?
After interview any of the following may happen:
- The police may take advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or an Evidential Review Officer (ERO) to discuss whether there is sufficient evidence to charge you with a criminal offence (see I have been charged with a criminal offence. What happens now?), offer a police caution (called a reprimand or a final warning if you are under 18), or issue a fixed penalty notice.
- If there is not yet sufficient evidence, the police may release you on bail while they continue with their investigation. This can be with or without conditions attached. If you didn’t have a solicitor in interview, but now think you may need one, it’s not too late, you can contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658.
- If there is insufficient evidence, the police can decide to formally take ‘no further action’ against you.
If you would like to discuss any of the procedures outlined above in more detail, or you would like us to represent you or someone you know, then please contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert lawyers. In an emergency, call our 24 hour helpline on 07939 958767.
What is an interview under caution?
An interview under caution at the police station is also known as a ‘Caution plus 3’ interview, or a voluntary interview. You will usually be contacted by a police officer who will ask you to come to the police station at a certain time because they want to talk to you about an offence, usually a fairly minor one or something that happened a while ago. Sometimes they will tell you they just ‘want a quick chat’. Even if you are not under arrest what you say or don’t say in your interview is still important. It can make a big difference to the outcome of you case, so you should still have a solicitor.
- We will make arrangements for you to attend the police station at an appointed time.
- You are entitled to free and independent legal advice, so we will attend the police station with you.
- You will be interviewed under Caution which means that you still have the right not to answer any questions.
- Because you are being interviewed under caution, what you say in your interview can be used at Court, if your case gets that far.
- You are free to leave at any time (although if you leave before the interview there is the danger that you could be arrested).
- If you are interviewed as a volunteer you should not be arrested (unless the officer can show that one of the grounds for arrest exists). You probably won’t be searched and you won’t have your DNA and fingerprints taken. You will not have to go into a cell.
What happens following a voluntary interview?
Following your interview, you will be free to leave. The Police or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will then decide how to proceed. Should they decide that there is sufficient evidence against you and that you should go to Court, then you will be sent a summons in the post. The summons will detail the charge against you and will give you the date to attend Court.
If you have any questions or you want us to assist you in arranging a voluntary interview, please contact us on 0207 388 1658 and ask to speak to one of our experienced criminal lawyers.
I have been charged with a criminal offence. What happens now?
If you have been charged with a criminal offence you will have to appear in the magistrates’ court first, regardless of the seriousness of the offence.
The whole process can seem complicated and overwhelming with a lot of legal jargon. JFH Law’s specialist criminal solicitors are on hand to help you. Our experienced team are able to advise you about the procedures and what to expect at court in simple terms avoiding as much of the jargon as possible.
Your first appearance may be a number of days or weeks after you have been charged and released from the police station and you may be subject to certain bail conditions. You must ensure that you keep to those conditions. If you are unable to then you should seek legal advice immediately as it is possible to apply to the court prior to your first appearance to vary your bail conditions.
If you don’t yet have a solicitor then you should contact us to discuss whether you are eligible for legal aid. If you are not eligible then we offer competitive private fees.
If you do intend to instruct a solicitor you should do so as soon after you have been charged as possible in order to make sure that your legal aid application, if eligible, is submitted in advance of your first appearance at court.
You can call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert lawyers and discuss this further.
My case is in court and I don’t have a solicitor. Is it too late?
If your case is already in court but you don’t have a solicitor yet, then it is not too late to get one. If you have a trial coming up in either the magistrates’ court or the Crown Court, then the sooner you get a solicitor the better, so that they are able to prepare your case fully.
The earlier you instruct a solicitor the sooner they can advise you on the law, any potential defence you may have, arrange funding and of course representation. At your first hearing you will be expected to tell the court whether you are going to plead guilty or not guilty. The court will then have to list your case for sentence if you plead guilty or a trial if you plead not guilty.
In order to allocate enough time to your case the court will go through a case management form which requires you to identify the issues and any legal points which may be raised. The assistance of a lawyer at this stage is often vital to ensuring that your case is approached correctly from the outset.
If your case has already been in court and you are due to be sentenced, then we can advise you about the type of sentence you face and help you prepare your mitigation, to achieve the best possible result.
If you are worried about having to pay for a solicitor see Can I get legal aid? as you may be eligible for public funding. If you are not eligible then we offer competitive private rates; contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert solicitors.
I’ve arrived at court. What do I do now?
In most courts you can find out which courtroom your case will be heard in by checking the court lists. Once you have arrived at court and found your name on the court list you should go to that courtroom and let the list caller know that you are there.
They will ask you whether you have a solicitor or whether you would like to speak to the duty solicitor – see What is a duty solicitor?. The duty solicitor will then obtain a copy of the case papers and then see you.
If you have instructed your own solicitor they will also sign in on arrival with the list caller. If you cannot find them immediately at court they are likely to be obtaining your case papers from the Crown Prosecution Service lawyer.
Once you have met with your solicitor and discussed your case you will be advised on whether to plead guilty or not guilty. After this you will be sentenced, either there and then or at a separate sentencing hearing if you entered a guilty plea, or your case will be adjourned for a trial at which you will get the opportunity to present your defence.
If you have a case at either the Magistrates or Crown Court and want to arrange representation in advance of your first hearing then contact one of the experienced lawyers at JFH Law on 020 7388 1658.
Guilty or not guilty?
Before your case is heard you will be given a small bundle of papers called ‘Initial Details Prosecution Case’, which will set out in general terms the case against you. After you have had an opportunity to read these papers you will be expected to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The lawyers at JFH Law can help you assess the evidence and advise you on your options.
If you plead guilty then the court will hear a summary of the facts of the case from the prosecutor and you will have a chance to tell the court your mitigation, either directly or through your solicitor. The court will then decide whether to sentence you straight away, or to get a report from the probation service, who can make recommendations about sentence.
If you plead not guilty, then your case will be adjourned for a trial, either in the magistrates’ court or the Crown Court, depending upon the seriousness of the charge. In some cases you will be given the choice of which court you want to have your trial in. Your trial will not take place on the same day as your first appearance at court.
If you are in custody, the court will then decide whether you should be released on bail, either with or without conditions.
There are some cases that are so serious that they can only be dealt with by the Crown Court, such as robbery, arson, and murder. You will still appear in the magistrates’ court first if you are charged with one of these serious offences, but the hearing will only consider bail and then the case will be transferred to the Crown Court. You will not be asked to enter a plea until you get to the Crown Court.
If you are under 18 then your case will normally be dealt with in the Youth Court. You should be accompanied by an adult if possible. The Youth Offending Team will be present at the hearing and will offer help to the court if you are found guilty of an offence.
If you want to know more about what happens at court, or would like us to represent you, then contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert solicitors.
What is credit for a guilty plea?
If you plead guilty to a criminal offence then the law says you should receive a discount on your sentence, this is called ‘credit for a guilty plea.’
The discount can be up to one-third off your sentence and can even make the difference between a prison sentence and a community sentence.
The amount of the discount depends on what stage in the proceedings you enter or indicate your guilty plea. To get the maximum discount you need to offer a guilty plea at the ‘first reasonable opportunity.’ The first reasonable opportunity to indicate a guilty plea is a matter for the sentencing judge.
At the police station
Police station interviews should not be considered as the first reasonable opportunity and you do not have to admit your guilt in your interview with the police to get maximum credit. However, it does form important mitigation and in the correct circumstances it would lead to a further reduction in sentence.
In the magistrates’ court
If you are charged with a case that is being heard in the magistrates’ court, then your first reasonable opportunity will usually be when you attend the magistrates’ court for the first time.
In the Crown Court
If your case is sent to the Crown Court or if you elect a Crown Court trial, your case may be listed for a Preliminary Hearing and then a Plea and Case Management Hearing. It used to be the case that a guilty plea at the Plea and Case Management Hearing would attract the maximum discount of one-third off your sentence.
However, in recent case law (R v Caley & Others (2012) EWCA Crim 2821) the Court of Appeal concluded that in the majority of cases the defendant will know whether he is guilty or not. The first reasonable opportunity for him to indicate his plea of guilty and get maximum credit is therefore not at the Plea and Case Management Hearing. It is either at the magistrates’ court or at a Preliminary Hearing in the Crown Court.
If you plead guilty later on in the case you will still get credit, but it will be less than one third. For example, a guilty plea at the Plea and Case Management Hearing will usually attract a lesser discount of around one-quarter. A guilty plea on the day of trial, one-tenth.
Similarly, if the evidence against you is overwhelming you will still receive credit, but it is likely to be around one-fifth reduction.
There are exceptions to this, for instance, if when you attend court for the first time the prosecution have not provided the evidence against you, then your solicitor will try to make submissions to the court that credit should be held over until a later hearing.
If you would like to know more about credit for a guilty plea then contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert solicitors.
If you have any further queries that have not been answered by our “Frequently Asked Questions” page, please feel free to call us on 020 7388 1658, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been found guilty. Can I appeal?
If you have been found guilty of an offence in the magistrates’ court then you have an automatic right of appeal against conviction and/or sentence to the Crown Court.
You must lodge notice of your appeal at the magistrates’ court within 21 days of being sentenced. You can get an appeal form from the general office at the magistrates’ court where you had your trial. There are certain circumstances where a late application can be accepted. If you wish to discuss this further or if you would like assistance in lodging your appeal then contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert solicitors.
You should be aware that if you appeal and are unsuccessful then the Crown Court can order you to pay costs and can also amend your sentence, which includes the power to increase it.
If you have been found guilty of an offence in the Crown Court, then in order to appeal against conviction and/or sentence you must be able to show ‘grounds’. These grounds are usually based on a point of law.
You must lodge notice of your appeal at the Crown Court within 28 days of your conviction. There are certain circumstances where a late application can be accepted, if you wish to discuss this further then contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert solicitors.
Your solicitor should provide you with formal written ‘advice’ from the barrister or advocate who represented you at trial and/or sentence.
If this advice is that there are no grounds for you to appeal, but you still wish to do so, then contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert solicitors, and we will discuss with you whether you have any realistic prospect of success.
You should be aware that if you appeal and are unsuccessful, the Court of Appeal can order that the time you have served on remand between conviction and/or sentence and appeal should not count towards your sentence. The Court of Appeal can also amend your sentence, which includes the power to increase it.
I have received a summons. What should I do?
The most important thing to remember is not to panic. If you have received a summons then you will have been told that you need to attend court soon. You may also have been sent some papers about your case.
Depending upon the type of offence, you may be able to plead guilty by post and avoid attending court.
If you are considering pleading guilty by post and you want to discuss whether you should do this, then contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 and we can arrange an appointment to see you and go through the papers with you before you make a decision.
We may be able to agree a fixed fee in order to see you and help you write your mitigation, to send with the papers to the court. If you have to attend court, one of our specialist criminal lawyers can attend with you.
You may be eligible for legal aid, see Can I get legal aid? If you are not eligible, then we offer competitive private rates.
You can contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert solicitors and discuss whether we can help you.
Do I need to declare my convictions?
Whether you will have to declare convictions is a very common concern. The rules in relation to which convictions must be declared are complicated and vary depending upon the type of conviction you have and the reason you are being asked to provide the information. For instance, an enhanced criminal records check is usually required for all jobs that involve working with children, so any convictions, including those that are ‘spent’, will usually have to be declared.
Applying for a visa to certain countries, such as the USA, require that you declare all convictions, including those that are spent.
Recent reforms have cut the amount of time some offenders need to disclose convictions in certain professions. The changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 were introduced in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Act 2012. The changes are ‘retrospective’, which means they also apply to convictions received before the 10th March 2014.
If a conviction or caution is ‘spent’ is does not need to be declared unless the occupation is covered by the Exceptions Order. Excepted professions can be found by following the link:
Please also refer to our article on DBS (formally CRB) checks.
Under the new system, rehabilitation periods for community orders and custodial sentences will include the period of the sentence plus an additional specified period, rather than all rehabilitation periods starting from the date of conviction as it is under the current regime.
So, for an example, an adult offender sentenced to two and a half years custody, who would previously have had to declare their criminal conviction for ten years from the date of conviction, will now have to disclose their conviction for the period of the sentence plus a further four years (giving a total rehabilitation period of 6.5 years).
The table below shows the rehabilitation period that applies from 10th March 2014:
For custodial sentences:
Period of sentence plus the ‘buffer’ period below which applies from end of sentence
0 – 6 months
6 – 30 months
30 months – 4 years
Over 4 years
For community orders:
Length of order plus the buffer period
Community order (& Youth Rehabilitation Order)
For other non-custodial sentences:
1 year (from date of conviction)
Conditional Discharge, Referral Order, Reparation Order, Action Plan Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order
Period of Order
Simple Caution/Youth Caution
3 months or when caution ceases to have effect if earlier
The table shows that the length of your sentence can make a significant difference to your rehabilitation period.
If you wish to discuss whether you need to declare a conviction, then please contact us and we will be able to advise you, or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert solicitors. We may be able to agree a fixed fee in order to arrange a meeting and go through the application forms with you.
I already have a solicitor but I want to transfer. Can I do this?
No matter how your case is being funded, it is possible to change solicitors if you are not happy with the way in which your case is being conducted, and you feel that the relationship between you and your legal advisors has broken down beyond repair. If you would like more advice on transferring your case to JFH Law, please contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 and we will be happy to help.
If you already have a solicitor and receive legal aid, then you have to apply to the court if you want to transfer legal aid to another solicitor. You have to show a good reason for the change. We can advise you on, and assist you with the application to the court.
There are many reasons why you may want to change your legal representation. For instance, a good reason would be that the relationship between you and your current solicitor has broken down. The court will look carefully at the reason you give and if they are satisfied that it is a serious enough breakdown, they will grant the transfer.
If you are paying privately and wish to change solicitor, then you will simply need to give your current solicitors notice in writing that you no longer want them to act for you and ask for your papers.
If you want to discuss this further then please contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert solicitors.
What is a duty solicitor?
A duty solicitor is a fully qualified criminal defence solicitor. They are completely independent of the police and the courts. Most experienced criminal defence solicitors will hold a ‘duty solicitor’ qualification. All JFH Law’s solicitors are duty qualified solicitors.
At the police station
If you are in police custody and do not have or cannot contact your own solicitor, then you will be given the option of speaking to a Duty Solicitor. This is not, as is often thought, the ‘police solicitor’. The police have no say in which solicitor will be contacted when they ask for the Duty Solicitor. The police contact the Duty Solicitor Call Centre and the Call Centre will contact the solicitor on the rota at that time.
At the police station, the duty solicitor is paid by the Legal Aid Agency (the government body that administers legal aid) for all cases they deal with, this means they will not charge you for their advice and representation.
If you are at court and do not have your own solicitor, a duty solicitor may be able to represent you. You can ask the list caller in court who the duty solicitor is for that day. The duty solicitor will then speak to you, and if they are able to, will represent you at that hearing.
There are rules about what type of case the duty solicitor can help you with at court. For instance, if you are appearing in court for the first hearing in your case and you have been charged with an offence for which you could go to prison, or you are appearing in custody, then the duty solicitor will almost certainly be able to help you. However, if you already have a solicitor, or are appearing for a trial, or are charged with a non-imprisonable offence, then the duty solicitor will not be allowed to help you.
If you want the duty solicitor to continue representing you following the hearing then either they will need to apply for legal aid or you need to agree private fees; they will only be able to do this if they work for a firm. See – Can I get legal aid?.
If you are unsure whether you need or are eligible for the assistance of a duty solicitor it is always worth asking at court whether they can help you.
If you think you may need the assistance of a solicitor before your case is at court, please see – I have been charged with a criminal offence, what happens now?
If you would like to know more, or need representation then please contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to speak to one of our expert solicitors.
What is a European Arrest Warrant?
A European Arrest Warrant (an EAW) is a document issued by a country, for the extradition of a person accused of a crime in that country, or someone who has been convicted of a crime in that country. The country that is asking for the person is known as the ‘requesting state’. The person who is wanted is the ‘requested person’. That person does not have to be from the requesting state. People from the UK can be, and often are, arrested on an EAW for offences that have taken place in other European countries.
The EAW scheme was introduced in 2004 to speed up the extradition process, and make it simpler. At first only 8 European countries were part of the scheme but there are now 29 territories, including the UK, that are part of the EAW scheme; they are the 28 EU countries, plus Gibraltar. At the moment, nobody knows how ‘Brexit’ will change the UK’s situation, but the UK already has separate extradition arrangements with non-EU countries, known as Part 2 territories.
When an EAW is issued, it is sent to the National Crime Agency. They must ‘certify’ the EAW. They will check that it is a valid warrant and that the extradition request is proportionate, in other words that the offence is serious enough. The Lord Chief Justice has given guidance as to the sort of offences that someone should not be extradited for; they include minor thefts, such as shoplifting from a supermarket, minor driving offences, minor public order offences, and possession of small amounts of drugs such as cannabis if it is just for their own use.
Once an EAW is certified, the requested person will be circulated as wanted. If the authorities are able to find the person police will often come and arrest them. Often the police do not know where the person is and it can be many years before the person is actually arrested.
If you or someone you care about are facing extradition proceedings call our expert lawyers on 0207 388 1658 or email John Howey on email@example.com
There is an International or European Arrest Warrant in my name; what happens now?
Not many people know about the existence of European Arrest Warrant until the police arrive on their doorstep to arrest them, or they come into contact with the police for some other reason; either they are arrested for another offence, stopped and spoken to by police while they are driving, or sometimes when they themselves are a witness or a victim of crime. If you do know that there is an European Arrest Warrant (or an International Arrest Warrant from a country outside the European Union) it is often advisable to surrender yourself to your local police station or to Westminster Magistrates Court, as this will increase your chances of being granted bail later on.
For most people facing extradition proceedings, their arrest comes as a complete surprise.
It is likely that your arrest will be carried out by your local police force, who will often come to your home or place of work. You will be taken to your local police station where you will be “booked in”. During this procedure you must also be handed a copy of the arrest warrant. You can ask at the police station for legal advice, but it is likely that this will be provided over the telephone, and that you will not be able to speak to a solicitor of your choice. However, you should be able to speak to your family. They can contact us directly and arrange for us to attend the police station to offer you free independent legal advice.
If your passport or ID card has not been taken by the police, try to have it brought to the police station; you will need to give it to the police if you are given bail, and if the police can confirm they have it, this will save time later on.
Where ever you are in the country you must then be taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court “as soon as practicable.” In practice that means the same day if you are arrested very early in the morning, or you live near London. If not, it is likely to be the next day. Westminster is the only Magistrates Court in the country that deals with extradition cases. The Court is open Monday to Saturday, including Bank Holidays.
If you or your loved one faces extradition and would like expert advice or assistance, please call John Howey on 020 7388 1658, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Extradition cases, what happens when I get to Court?
If you have been arrested on a European Arrest Warrant, it can be a frightening experience. The first thing to do before you appear in court is to make sure you get a solicitor. There are always duty solicitors available at Court, and they can help you at your initial hearing free of charge. Alternatively, you can contact a solicitor of your choosing.
When you appear in court you will be asked your name and date of birth. The representative from the Judicial Authority (sometimes referred to as the prosecutor) will tell the District Judge what the warrant is about; which country it is from, if it is an accusation or a conviction warrant, what the offences are and what sentence has been imposed if it is a conviction warrant. The District Judge will want to know if you have been given a copy of the warrant and if you accept that you are the person named in the warrant.
The next step is to ask if you agree to your extradition. This is a big decision. If you do agree to be sent back then that is the end of the matter. You cannot change your mind later on, and you cannot appeal against the decision to extradite you. If you agree, you will be returned back to the requesting state quicker than if you fight your extradition. You should be returned within 10 days, although that time can be extended whilst arrangements are made for your flights etc.
If you do not give your consent, then the District Judge will want to know the grounds on which you oppose your extradition. There are a number of statutory bars to extradition, and many people rely on the Human Rights Act. Once the issues have been identified, a date for the full hearing will be fixed and your case will be adjourned until then.
If you or someone you care about is facing extradition proceedings call our expert lawyers on 020 7388 1658, or email John Howey at email@example.com
Can I challenge Extradition?
Most people arrested on an extradition warrant want to fight or challenge extradition and remain in the UK. However there are only a limited number of challenges that can be raised to a valid extradition warrant. If it is a European Arrest Warrant, the District Judge hearing your case does not look at the evidence against you in the country asking for your return. They are not concerned with whether you are guilty of the offence or not. They are just dealing with a request for you to be extradited so that you can be dealt with under the law and procedures in the requesting country.
There are 10 ‘bars’ or ways to challenge extradition in the extradition act. The most commonly used of these is the passage of time. This is where a person argues that because of the amount of time that has passed since the offence it would be ‘unjust’ or ‘oppressive’ to extradite them. Although it is common for long periods of time to pass between the offence and a person’s arrest, most people are not able to use this as a reason to oppose their extradition. If a person knows about the case but decides to leave the country and this causes the delay, they cannot say that the amount of time that has passed means they should not be extradited.
Another challenge to extradition is the ‘forum’ bar. That can be used when a lot of the criminal activity in fact is said to have happened in the UK. Therefore we argue that it is in the interests of justice that the person should not be extradited. The effect of extradition being barred in this way is likely to be prosecution in this country, but there are many reasons why someone might want to be dealt with here, rather than in another country, particularly if their family are settled in the UK.
If you or anyone you know is fighting extradition from the UK, please call our expert lawyers on 020 7388 1658, or email John Howey at firstname.lastname@example.org for top quality advise and assistance.
What happens if Extradition is ordered?
Once your extradition is ordered, you have seven days to apply for permission to appeal. If you do not appeal, or you have appealed and your appeal has been refused, your extradition should take place within 10 days. That time can be extended, and often is. The country making the extradition request must apply to a Judge for an extension.
If you have not been extradited within 10 days, (and an extension had not been granted) you can apply to Westminster Magistrates Court to be discharged. If there is no good reason for the delay, then you should be discharged. It used to be that once the 10 days had expired it could not be extended. Unfortunately it can be, and once you apply to be discharged, there is nothing to stop the authorities making an application to extend the 10 day period.
We recently dealt with a case where extradition was ordered and the person did not turn up for his flight. He was arrested for theft a few weeks later and given a short prison sentence. He was brought to Westminster Magistrates Court and remanded in custody on his extradition case. It seems that the country that wanted him were not told he had been arrested and he was not extradited. We applied for him to be discharged, and he was. He was in fact in the departure area at Heathrow while we were in court, and some urgent messages had to be passed to stop him being put on the flight home.
Of course, just because you have been discharged, it does not always mean that you have nothing to worry about. The authorities in the country that wants you can reissue the warrant and the process simply starts again.
If you or someone you care about is facing extradition proceedings call our expert lawyers on 020 7388 1658, or email John Howey at email@example.com
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