A Postal Requisition is a legal document telling you that you have been charged with an offence. It will also tell you where and when you have to attend court.
Postal Requisitions are being used more and more as a result of fewer people being released on police bail. Previously, once someone had been arrested, they would remain on police bail until a decision was made to charge or not. If the decision was to charge, you would have to attend the police station. You would be told what you were being charged with and given a date to attend court. Now that very few people are released on bail, a postal requisition is used instead. Similarly, if you have been interviewed under caution, you will not have a bail date. However, the police need a way to notify you if you have to go to court, so you will be sent a postal requisition.
When should I get one?
In many cases, the postal requisition is not sent until many months after you have been arrested or interviewed under caution. For most offences there is no time limit for bringing the case to court. However, for some offences there is a 6-month time limit from the date of the offence to the date of the requisition. This time limit applies to summary only offences. These include offences such as common assault, threatening words and behaviour and driving with excess alcohol.
If you receive a postal requisition, you should contact us as soon as possible. We can apply for legal aid straight away. We will be able to obtain the paperwork from the prosecution in advance of your first appearance at court, and start preparing your case. If you are pleading guilty, we can make sure all of your mitigation is in place. Alternatively, if you are pleading not guilty, we can start contacting witnesses and obtaining evidence to support your defence. If you do not contact a solicitor before you appear in court you are unlikely to be granted an adjournment at the first hearing, and would be asked to see the duty solicitor.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore it
If you are sent a postal requisition, don’t ignore it. If you do not attend court, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. You could find yourself being arrested and kept in custody until you appear in court. This can be very inconvenient; for example, if you are arrested on a Saturday lunchtime, you will be kept in custody until court on Monday.
How can we help?
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us help.
If you are arrested or are appearing in court, one of the first things you will probably ask yourself is ‘can I get legal aid?’. Fortunately, legal aid is still available for many criminal cases. Whether you are eligible will depend upon what level of assistance you need and what your financial circumstances are.
At the police station
If you are arrested or are being interviewed under caution, all advice and assistance in the police station can be funded by legal aid regardless of your income.
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 and speak to one of our expert solicitors to discuss our rates.
At the Magistrates’ Court
Representation in the Magistrates’ Court is now subject to 2 tests:
- 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
- The ‘means test’ considers your financial circumstances and those of your partner. You will need to provide details of your income and your outgoings. Allowances are made for any children you have, childcare fees, your rent or mortgage, council tax and so on.
If your case passes the ‘merits test’ above you will automatically qualify for legal aid if:
- You are under 18; or
- Your total adjusted income (i.e. yours + your partner’s income, less certain allowances) 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 your adjusted income is less than £22,325 each year you may also be eligible. However, a full financial test will be carried out to take into account household outgoings.
If your adjusted income is above £22,325 each year then you will not be eligible for legal aid in the Magistrates’ Court.
In the event that you are not eligible for legal aid, you may want to take advantage of our competitive private rates. Contact us or call us on 020 7388 1658 to discuss privately funding your case. We can often offer fixed fees, giving you certainty about the costs involved.
If you are successful at trial and are found not guilty, you can apply for at least some of your costs to be paid from central funds.
At the Crown Court
Representation in the Crown Court is now also subject to the ‘merits’ and ‘means’ tests.
If your case is going to be heard in the Crown Court, then you automatically pass the ‘merits’ test.
In the Crown Court if you exceed the lower financial eligibility threshold then you can still receive legal aid. However, 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. If you are found not guilty, your contributions will be refunded to you.
If you have over £37,500 adjusted income, you will not be eligible for legal aid.
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.
Court of Appeal
If you are appealing against your conviction or sentence from the Crown Court, your legal aid will cover the initial stages of the process. It covers the preparation of the grounds and advice on appeal. If you are given permission to appeal, your legal aid will be extended to cover your advocate’s appearance at Court.
Legal aid in extradition cases in the Magistrates Court is also subject to the ‘means’ test. If you have an extradition case, you automatically pass the ‘merits’ test. For an appeal to the High Court, there is no means or merits test. Everyone is eligible for legal aid, whatever your circumstances. You can read more about legal aid in extradition cases here.
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email email@example.com. Let us help.Read More
Many defendants who appear in the Magistrates Court receive a fine, particularly for road traffic offences. In the Crown Court, while a fine is not the most common punishment meted out, when they are imposed they tend to be very large.
Do I have to pay the fine all at once?
Sometimes a court will order full payment (and may give a period of time for this to be completed), but in many cases, the court can order that you pay in instalments, usually weekly or monthly.
You will not be given time to pay (and can be sent to prison straightaway if a fine isn’t paid) if:
(a) in the case of an offence punishable by imprisonment, you appear to the judge to have sufficient means to pay straightaway;
(b) it appears to the judge that you are unlikely to remain long enough at an address in the UK to allow the payment of the fine to be enforced in other ways; or
(c) at the same time that the fine is imposed, the judge sends you to prison.
What happens if I do not pay?
If you wilfully refuse to pay the fine, and all other enforcement options have been exhausted, you will be ordered to serve the default term in prison. That can vary from 7 days for a fine of up to £200 to 10 years where the fine is more than £1 million.
Before you get to that point, bailiffs will have become involved. They can seize property belonging to you to the value of the fine. They also add their own charges, which are often more than the original fine.
It is therefore very important that you make contact with your solicitor if your financial circumstances change and you are unable to pay a financial penalty. It is always better to try and resolve difficulties earlier than wait for enforcement proceedings to commence.
I would sooner serve the time than pay the fine, is that possible?
Yes, and no!
If you do not pay, then you will go to prison.
However, this does not extinguish the penalty; if the authorities later find that you have the means to pay the fine, action can still be taken to recover the monies.
How we can assist
The law concerning non-payment of fines and other financial penalties is complicated. This article is intended to give only a very brief overview of the issues involved.
If you have any concerns or simply to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact John Howey, on 02073881658 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A new domestic abuse sentencing guideline has been published today (22 February), giving courts up to date guidance that emphasises the seriousness of this offending.
What is domestic abuse?
There is no specific crime of domestic abuse – it can be a feature of many offences, such as assault, sexual offences or harassment. The guideline aims to ensure that the seriousness of these offences is properly taken into account when such offences are being sentenced and that sufficient thought is also given to the need to address the offender’s behaviour and prevent reoffending.
Are there existing guidelines?
The new guideline replaces a domestic violence guideline which was published in 2006. A great deal has changed since then in terms of societal attitudes, expert thinking and terminology. Guidance for courts was therefore in need of revision to bring it up to date. ‘Domestic abuse’ is now the term used, rather than ‘domestic violence’, to reflect that offences can involve psychological, sexual, financial or emotional abuse as well as physical violence.
When is the new guideline in force?
The guideline will apply to all offenders aged 16 and older sentenced on or after 24 May 2018.
How does this guideline change things?
The guideline identifies the principles relevant to the sentencing of cases involving domestic abuse, outlines how the seriousness of offences should be assessed and highlights other factors that should be taken into account.
It brings a distinct change in emphasis in relation to seriousness.
The previous guideline stated that offences committed in a domestic context should be seen as no less serious than those in a non-domestic context, whereas the new guideline emphasises that the fact an offence took place in a domestic context makes it more serious.
This is because domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident, it is likely to become increasingly frequent and more serious the longer it continues and may result in death. It can also lead to lasting trauma for victims and their children.
For the first time, the guideline also includes a reference to abuse which is perpetrated through use of technology, such as email/text, social networking sites or tracking devices fitted to a victim’s car, since these are increasingly common methods by which domestic abuse can occur.
The guidelines recognise that these offences can affect people of all backgrounds and the guideline is also clear that abuse can occur between family members as well as between intimate partners.
Will anything else change?
Yes. In particular, there is now additional guidance on restraining orders, along with new guidance on Victim Personal Statements.
In relation to restraining orders, the guideline now includes additional guidance to assist the court with a renewed focus on keeping the victim safe, particularly for those who continue or resume their relationship with the offender.
The guideline further reminds courts to take any Victim Personal Statement (VPS) into account, but that where there is no VPS, this is not an indication of any lack of harm to the victim.
Sentencing Council member Jill Gramann said:
“Domestic abuse comes in many forms such as harassment, assault and sex offences. The increasing use of technology in offending has meant that it has also evolved in its scope and impact. The new guideline will ensure that courts have the information they need to deal with the great range of offending and help prevent further abuse occurring.”
What factors will a court take into account?
The following list of non-exhaustive aggravating and mitigating factors are of particular relevance to offences committed in a domestic context and should be considered alongside offence specific factors.
- Abuse of trust and abuse of power
- Victim is particularly vulnerable (all victims of domestic abuse are potentially vulnerable due to the nature of the abuse, but some victims of domestic abuse may be more vulnerable than others, and not all vulnerabilities are immediately apparent)
- Steps taken to prevent the victim reporting an incident
- Steps taken to prevent the victim obtaining assistance
- Victim forced to leave home, or steps have to be taken to exclude the offender from the home to ensure the victim’s safety
- Impact on children (children can be adversely impacted by both direct and indirect exposure to domestic abuse)
- Using contact arrangements with a child to instigate an offence
- A proven history of violence or threats by the offender in a domestic context
- A history of disobedience to court orders (such as, but not limited to, Domestic Violence Protection Orders, non-molestation orders, restraining orders)
- Positive good character – as a general principle of sentencing, a court will take account of an offender’s positive good character. However, it is recognised that one of the factors that can allow domestic abuse to continue unnoticed for lengthy periods is the ability of the perpetrator to have a public and a private face. In respect of offences committed within a domestic context, an offender’s good character in relation to conduct outside these offences should generally be of no relevance where there is a proven pattern of behaviour
- Evidence of genuine recognition of the need for change, and evidence of obtaining help or treatment to effect that change
Will I get a longer sentence?
A spokesperson for the Sentencing Council commented:
‘Overall, it is likely that there will be an increase in sentence severity as a result of the introduction of the guideline, however, the guideline emphasises the need to consider the most appropriate sentence to prevent further reoffending and protect victims, which may be a community order.’
How we can help
Many people feel that sentencing is increasingly a mechanistic process, with a danger that guidelines will be rigidly stuck to, and the individual considerations of defendants either ignored or played down. However, case law over the last few years emphasises that courts should be cautious to ensure that this does not happen. All of our advocates are experienced in presenting the best mitigation possible to courts, ensuring the best possible outcome.
To discuss your case contact John Howey, on 020 7388 1658 or email@example.comRead More
Convicted Before A Magistrates’ Court – Can I Appeal?
Many people convicted before magistrates feel aggrieved at the outcome, and wish to consider an appeal.
A grievance may arise because they think that their case was not prepared correctly, or that the court reached the wrong result.
For many people, a conviction could be a major barrier to employment or travel overseas, even where the offence itself is relatively minor.
The court process is far from perfect. If you have a grievance, it is only right and proper that you consider your options.
So, what can I do about it?
The first thing to remember is that you must act quickly as you only have 21 days from the date of sentencing to appeal your conviction – you should not delay in contacting us.
If more than 21 days have passed, then get in touch as soon as possible as we can advise on ‘out of time appeals’.
When you contact us, we will also be able to consider whether other avenues of appeal, namely judicial review and appeal by way of case stated (both to the High Court) are more suitable.
I pleaded guilty, can I appeal?
You might be able to appeal against ‘conviction’ if you pleaded guilty, but only if your plea is ‘equivocal’. In this instance, there are two remedies that we can explore with you.
Do I need permission to appeal?
An appeal against conviction from the magistrates’ court to the crown court is what is termed ‘an appeal as of right’, which means that you do not need any permission to appeal.
In effect, you are entitled to ‘2 bites of the cherry’ although there are some other issues, such as sentence and costs (see below) that you should consider first.
Is sentence suspended pending an appeal?
Your sentence is not suspended pending appeal, although:
– We can apply for bail if you are in custody, and
– Apply for any driving disqualification to be suspended.
If you have been made subject to a community order, this will need to be complied with, although we will take steps to try and expedite the hearing.
What happens at the appeal hearing?
The crown court, presided over by a Judge and Lay Magistrates (not a jury), hears the case afresh.
We do however have a valuable opportunity to review what might have gone wrong at the first trial and take steps to remedy any failures.
We can also examine what other evidence ought to the gathered on your behalf, or what lines of attack we might usefully deploy against the prosecution case.
If I lose the appeal, what happens?
If that happens, you will be re-sentenced by the crown court, and be liable for prosecution costs. We will discuss the costs implications with you in detail before any decision to appeal is made.
It is important to note that the crown court is not restricted to the same sentence imposed by the magistrates’ court, so, you may receive a higher penalty.
This is one of the risks that you need to balance – and one of the reasons why we will at an early stage examine the other avenues of appeal with you (judicial review and case stated).
Can I get legal aid?
Some people are eligible for legal aid, and in some circumstances we can apply for legal aid on your behalf.
We will be happy to discuss fixed fee arrangements – the price of high-quality representation is almost certainly much less than you might imagine it to be. If you are successful in your appeal, some of your costs may be refunded.Read More
Since 13th November, it is now an offence to fail to tell a Magistrates Court or Crown Court your nationality. Anyone committing this offence can be sentenced to up to 6 months imprisonment; the same as for offences such as common assault, assaulting a police officer and driving whilst disqualified. The maximum sentence is twice as long as the maximum sentence for criminal damage with a value of up to £5,000.
It has been suggested that as defendants already give their name, address and date of birth, there is no real difference in providing their nationality. But a defendant is asked to give their name and date of birth to confirm their identity, and their address so the court knows where to find them if they need to contact them or they don’t turn up. No matter how you try to dress it up, being asked to provide your nationality is simply a way of making it easier to identify foreign criminals so the authorities can try to deport them.
The Government themselves have said:
“Where an individual is identified as a foreign national offender this will allow the Home Office to begin consideration of deportation action as quickly as possible. We are absolutely committed to removing foreign national offenders from the UK and continue to work closely with international governments to increase the number of prisoners deported.”
It is difficult to see how a non-UK national can have confidence in a justice system that has, as one of it’s stated aims, a desire to deport foreign criminals. Whether or not there is bias, there is certainly going to be an appearance of bias. Why should it matter at a first appearance what someone’s nationality is? There is no justification for seeking that information at that stage. If the deportation of foreign criminals is the aim of this legislation, then why can the court not wait until after conviction, and after sentence has been passed, to enquire?