HomeFrequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Important and Useful Information

Thank you for instructing Olliers Solicitors to handle your case.

These pages contain important information, some of this may not apply to your case but you may find it useful to read regardless.

Police Station FAQs

What is a voluntary interview?

A voluntary interview takes place when a police officer invites a suspect to a police station in order to interview them in relation to an alleged offence. Suspects do not have to attend the interview but there is a risk of being arrested if they do not attend without good reason. In the same way as when someone is arrested and interviewed, voluntary interviews can be used as evidence in court. It is important that anyone who is interviewed as a volunteer obtains legal representation, regardless of the seriousness of the allegation.

 
What happens when a suspect is arrested?

When someone is arrested usually they are informed by a police officer that they are under arrested and cautioned. Following being cautioned, what they say to the police can be used in evidence against them. Suspects should be wary of this if they are unfortunate enough to be arrested. Following arrest, suspects are usually taken to the nearest police station with a custody suite. There they will be placed in front of the custody sergeant who will determine if he can authorise the detention of the suspect. If he authorises their detention, the police have 24hrs within which to investigate and interview the suspect. Following this they must either charge or release. In certain circumstances a suspect’s detention can be authorised for an additional 12hrs taking the total amount of time a suspect can be detained by the police without charge to 36hrs without applying to a court for a warrant of further detention.

What happens when a suspect is interviewed?

The purpose of a police interview is to obtain evidence by questioning. If a suspect has instructed a solicitor, the solicitor will normally obtain disclosure from the police prior to consulting with the suspect. Disclosure may be a few sentences briefly explaining the circumstances of the offence or it could be a full disclosure of the entire police case and all the evidence. It is your solicitor’s role to obtain as much information from the police. Once disclosure is completed then the solicitor will sit down with the suspect, listen to any account they wish to provide and advise them on the law and the correct interview strategy. Following this the solicitor will sit in the interview. It is not the solicitor’s role to answer questions for the suspect but they can intervene during the interview under certain circumstances.

What powers do the police have to take fingerprints, DNA and other samples?
In most cases, when the suspect is arrested or charged with an offence the police have the power to take non intimate samples from a suspect.  They can do this with or without the suspects consent, meaning they can in theory take these samples by force.  Non intimate samples include but not exclusively fingerprints, DNA, footwear impressions and skin swabs.  Intimate samples include blood and any sample taken from the genitals or orifice other than the mouth.  The police require the consent of the suspect in order to take intimate samples and they cannot use any force to take these samples.  If a suspect refuses to provide an intimate sample and ends up in court in relation to the alleged offence, the court will be allowed to draw its own conclusions on why the defendant refused to provide a sample.
 
Samples should be deleted if a suspect is not charged or cautioned for the offence or cleared of the offence at court.  Olliers Solicitors can assist clients with having records deleted from the police database.
What happens after a police interview?

Many things can happen after a police interview. The worst case scenario for a suspect who has been arrested is that they can be charged and held in police custody to appear before the next available court. A suspect may be released on bail to re-attend the police station or released under investigation. The best outcome for a suspect who has been arrested is that they are released with a notice of no further action, meaning that the police do not intend to prosecute or investigate any further unless more evidence comes to light. Those interviewed on a voluntary basis will simply leave the police station after their interview and await a decision from the police or CPS.

How long can the police keep a suspect on bail?

Suspects can be released on bail for a maximum period of 28 days, but this can be extended for up to 3 months with the approval of a senior police officer. If police seek to extend bail beyond 3 months they must apply to the local Magistrates Court. Olliers Solicitors may be able to assist by making written representations opposing extension of bail at your request. An oral hearing will not take place unless the police seek to extend bail beyond 12 months. Again we may be able to assist with opposing a bail extension at an oral hearing at our clients request. Should an application to extend bail be unsuccessful you will be released from bail and any re-bail dates or bail conditions will no longer apply.

Work undertaken after a police station interview can prevent a prosecution. Public funding at the pre-charge is extremely limited and Olliers do not undertake this work on a publicly funded basis.

Such work may include attending upon you at the office, making enquiries with the Police, taking defence witness statements, considering messaging, enquiries regarding CCTV,  attending upon character witnesses and most importantly making written representations to the police that you should not be charged. Such representations can sometimes make a very real difference to the outcome of the investigation.

Do I have to pay for representation at the police station?

Any person detained at the police station or being interviewed by the under caution is entitled to free and independent legal advice. Olliers Solicitors operate a 24hr, 7 day service providing advice to any person held in police custody or being interviewed by a person with the power of arrest. Should you ever find yourself to be in this position please do not hesitate to request our services, where you can be assured of our prompt attention regardless of the time of day or night.

Magistrates' Court FAQs

What is the IDPC pack?

The IDPC (Initial Details of the Prosecution Case) is the bundle of evidence which is served upon the defence electronically prior to a client’s first appearance at the Magistrates’ Court. It usually contains the details of the charge, a summary of the Crown’s case – including what was said by the defendant during his police station interview – and a record of the defendant’s previous conviction(s). It may also contain other evidence, such as the statements of witnesses or exhibits sought to be relied upon.

What happens at the first appearance at the Magistrates’ Court?

Less serious offences, known as summary only offences, can only be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court. At a first appearance for offences of this type, the defendant is asked to enter their plea. If the matter is admitted then the Court will move to sentence and would ordinarily try and conclude the case that day. If it is denied, then the case will be adjourned for a trial date. In the Magistrates’ Court trials are normally listed around two to three months after the first appearance, depending upon the Court’s availability.

More serious offences are known as ‘either way’ offences. This means that they can be heard in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. When a defendant makes a first appearance in respect of such offences they will be asked to indicate a plea.

If they plead guilty then the Court will consider whether their sentencing powers are sufficient. In doing so they will look at the circumstances of the offence itself and whether the defendant has any previous convictions. If the Magistrates’ Court is able to deal with the case, they, again, will try and conclude the matter on the day. If, however, they feel that their sentencing powers are insufficient, they will commit the case to the Crown Court for sentence, normally four weeks later.

If a defendant pleads not guilty or decides to give no indication as regards their plea, the Magistrates’ must then hear the details of the case and decide whether the matter should be tried there or in the Crown Court. Again, they will look at the circumstances of the offence, the defendant’s previous character, and whether the issues for trial are particularly complex.

If the matter is suitable to be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court then the defendant will be given the opportunity to ask for a Crown Court trial (a trial by jury) rather than consent to have their case heard summarily. This is something that we discuss with our clients in detail beforehand. Even if a trial is dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court, if a defendant is convicted he or she could have their case committed to the Crown Court for sentence.

If the Court decides that the case is too serious to be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court then they will send the case to the Crown Court for trial. In cases such as this the matter is sent for a Pre-Trial and Preparation Hearing on the Crown Court four weeks after the first appearance.

The most serious type of offences are known as ‘indictable only’ offences. This means that they can only he heard in the Crown Court and will be sent for a Pre-Trial and Preparation Hearing ordinarily four weeks after the first appearance. Whilst the Court will not formally ask the defendant for a plea in these matters, a form is completed which is sent to the Crown Court which should identify the likely issues in the case.

Regardless of the type of offence that is before the Court, the first appearance at the Magistrates’ Court is the defendant’s first opportunity to indicate a guilty plea. A defendant is only guaranteed to receive maximum credit for a guilty plea if they indicate their intentions to do so at this stage.

What happens at a Magistrates’ Court trial?

When a defendant pleads not guilty in the Magistrates’ Court, a Case Management Hearing is undertaken at the first appearance, during which the issues for trial are identified, as are the witnesses that are required to attend. This includes any defence witnesses and therefore it is crucial that we are able to take full instructions prior to the case being heard.

A solicitor from Olliers would then be allocated to the case and would conduct all preparation required. This would include seeing the client prior to the trial date, taking full instructions from them, speaking to witnesses, and considering all of the evidence put forward by the Crown.

During the trial the Prosecution witnesses would give evidence and we would have the opportunity to cross examine them and put the defence case across. The defendant would then give evidence, as would any witnesses in support of their defence, and the Crown would have the opportunity to cross examine them. After all of the evidence has been heard both the Crown and the defence would ordinarily make closing speeches before the Magistrates’ retire to make their decision.

If a defendant fails to attend for his or her trial then the Court can hear it in their absence. This would mean that they lose their opportunity to put their defence forwards.

What is a Newton Hearing?

A defendant can plead guilty on a different version of events to that put forward by the Crown. This would involve them drafting a written Basis of Plea. The Crown would then consider whether they would be willing to accept this account of what happened. If they refuse to agree the Basis the Court must then consider whether the difference in accounts between the Crown’s case and the defendant’s version would make a material difference to sentence. If the Court does not feel that it would, then it will proceed to sentence on the defendant’s Basis of Plea.

If the Court feels that there would be a material difference to sentence, then they will ask the matter to be adjourned for a Newton Hearing. This is essentially a trial of issue, in which the Court is being asked to determine which version of events they accept. As with ordinary trials, the Crown must prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.

What sentence can a Magistrates’ Court impose?

When a defendant pleads guilty and the matter is suitable to be resolved in the Magistrates’ Court, the Court must hear the full facts of the case and decide where it falls on the sentencing guidelines.

If the offence, coupled with the mitigation put forwards, is viewed less seriously, it could be resolved immediately by way of a financial penalty or a conditional discharge.

If, however, the Court feels that the community or custody threshold has been passed, then they are likely to stand the case down for a Pre-Sentence Report. In order to prepare the same, an officer of the Probation Service will interview the defendant, discussing the offence and his or her personal circumstances. They will also consider why the offence took place, and whether there are any underlying issues that resulted in the offending behaviour. Probation’s role is to come up with sentencing options for the Court which ordinarily do not involve a custodial sentence. A Community Order must include an element of punishment (the punitive element), namely a fine, unpaid work or a curfew. Often a rehabilitative element will also be suggested. Conditions that are proposed by Probation can be attached to a Suspended Sentence Order if the Court feels that the custodial threshold has been passed.

In the Magistrates’ Court the Court can only impose a maximum of six months custody for one offence, and a maximum of 12 months custody where there are two or more either way offences before them.

The Court must also impose a victim surcharge (a mandatory tax which is imposed by the government regardless of what the offence is) and will consider imposing Prosecution costs and compensation if requested.

The Court may also be asked to consider ancillary orders, such as a Restraining Order or a Criminal Behaviour Order.

It can often assist the Court if references are obtained prior to a sentencing hearing. Ideally these will be from professional people, who are able to put something in writing detailing how they know the defendant, their views on his or her character and their response to the offences being dealt with. We are always happy to discuss what steps can and should be undertaken to get the best possible outcome.

Crown Court FAQs

Can I choose my barrister in the Crown Court?

If your case is before the crown court then you will also have an advocate to represent you. The advocate we instruct on your behalf will be from our approved list and will be chosen for your case because we have assessed them as having sufficient experience and be suitable for your case. This can be a Higher Court Advocate employed by Olliers Solicitors or an external barrister.

An advocate will represent you at the crown court each time you attend there. Our job is to prepare the case for the advocate on your behalf. Our attendance with the advocate will not always be necessary. We will of course attend when it is necessary to do so.

You do have a choice in the instruction of your barrister and if you have an advocate you specifically wish us to instruct then you can discuss this with us.

What is a Pre-Trial Preparation Hearing (PTPH)?

Please watch our video explainer, presented by Stacey Mabrouk below:

What is bad character?

Bad character evidence is a complicated area of law. It relates to evidence of, or a disposition towards ‘misconduct’ on the part of the defendant other than that which is part of the facts of the offence or which relates to the investigation of the prosecution of the offence the defendant faces. It can relate to other offences or ‘reprehensible behaviour’.

What is a basis of plea?

Unless the defendant pleads guilty on the version of events put forward by the prosecution then the defence should put forward a written basis of plea.

The basis of plea will be considered by the prosecution who may or may not accept it. If the basis is not accepted then there may be a need for a Newton hearing in which the court considers which version it prefers.

What is a committal for sentence?

There are some occasions where a defendant is convicted in the magistrates court that the court determines their sentencing powers are insufficient to sentence the defendant. The matter can be sent to the crown court for sentence where the sentencing powers are greater. The case is usually listed in the crown court in 3-4 weeks time.

Often in these instances a pre sentence report is ordered to be prepared prior to crown court sentence date. If you are on bail you will be provided with an appointment to attend the probation service, on occasions this can take place before you leave the magistrates court. If you are in custody they will either attend a visit at the prison or attend via video-link. We would advise all defendants to co-operate with the Probation Service prior to the sentence date to obtain a good report as this will be used by the sentencing Judge to help them determine what type of sentence or length of sentence you will receive.

What is unused material?

During the course of an investigation the police obtain a significant amount of material, some of which will not form part of the prosecution case. This is known as unused material.

In the crown court when the prosecution serve their case they should also serve a schedule of unused material. At the same time they must highlight material on that schedule which is capable of undermining the prosecution case. Such material should be made available to the defence.

This is a crucial stage of the case and it affords the defence an opportunity to scrutinise the schedule and in particular request additional items. Some of these items are contained on the schedule but not disclosed, other items may not be on the schedule but can still be requested.

What is a defence statement?

In the Crown Court the defence statement should normally be provided within 28 days of service of the prosecution case.

The defence statement is a document which sets out the nature of the defence, any particular defences, areas of the prosecution case which are disputed, facts relied upon by the defence, any points of law relevant to the case and where relevant particulars of alibi.

The defence statement also provides the defence with an opportunity to request items of unused material.  These items may be contained on the prosecution schedule of unused material, alternatively there may be items which the defence feel the prosecution should obtain or may already be in possession of but which have not been scheduled.

What are special measures?

Special measures are intended to help witnesses who may be vulnerable or intimidated and they can apply to both prosecution and defence witnesses.  A vulnerable witness may be a child (under the age of 18) or a witness who may have a mental disorder, an impairment in terms of intelligence or social functioning or have a physical disability or disorder.  An intimidated witness is one who may suffer from fear or distress in relation to giving evidence and complainant in sexual offences automatically fall into this category as do witnesses to certain other types of offence such as those involving guns and knives.   Complainants in cases involving serious crime can also be regarded as intimidated.

Special measures can include giving evidence behind a screen, via a live link, in some cases evidence given in private, wigs and gowns removed by judges and barristers and by way of a video recorded interview.  In some cases examination of a witness can take place through an intermediary.

Depending on the allegation we can explain whether special measures are applicable to a particular case.

What credit is given for a guilty plea?

The Judicial Sentencing Guidelines Council have issued guidelines in relation to the credit that a defendant is entitled to if they plead guilty to criminal charges. The maximum credit that a defendant would be entitled to would be a third discount, that is to say a third discount on any custodial sentence. However such credit is reserved for defendants who make admissions to the police in interview or alternatively indicate at the Magistrates Court that they will be pleading guilty at the first opportunity at the Crown Court. If there is no indication made at the Magistrates Court and a plea is entered at the first occasion in the Crown Court i.e. at the Plea Trial Preparation Hearing, that credit is usually reduced to 25%.

If a defendant were to enter a not guilty plea at that stage but enter a guilty plea in between the plea and trial hearing and the trial date the credit can be as low as 10%. Ultimately credit is a matter is for the Judge to decide depending on the complexity of the case and the evidence in such case.

If you are granted legal aid the Legal Aid Agency could determine you are liable to make income contributions. They will send you detailed correspondence setting out the terms and you must read this carefully and ensure you adhere to all deadlines given.  It is your responsibility. You will be required to make contributions for six months or, less if you pay a lump sum.   Failure to provide requested documentation may result in a financial penalty being imposed.  If you find the payment proposal is unacceptable then you must notify us immediately so that we can reject the offer of legal aid and we can discuss whether you wish to instruct us privately. If you have paid contributions but are acquitted of all charges, monies you have paid (with interest at 2%) will be returned to you.  if you are acquitted of some but not all charges the amount payable and the contributions may in some cases be apportioned, meaning that you will pay less.  We will discuss this with you further should the situation arise.

If you are convicted and you have £30,000 or more of assets such as savings, equity and property or shares you may be liable for a contribution towards some or all of your defence costs.  You must be aware that this will affect both you and your partner (if applicable) if there resources were taken into account in your initial application.  This is irrelevant of whether they were a party to the criminal proceedings.

A defendant acquitted in the Crown Court can recover legal costs in a Defendant’s Costs Order (DCO). However, legal costs are limited to legal aid rates and they are only available to a non- legally aided (or privately paying) client if that client was ineligible for legal aid. Click here to read more.

General FAQs

Complaints

Our Managing Director Matthew Claughton has been appointed to deal with complaints. We will try and resolve the matter informally, however if the matter is to be dealt with formally we will ask you to set out the nature of your complaint in writing. We will normally provide you with a written response within fourteen days from the date of your letter.

We have a complaints procedure, a copy of which is available upon request. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your complaint you can complain to the Legal Ombudsman at the below address.

Legal Ombudsman contact details

Normally you will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman within 6 months of receiving a final written response from us about your complaint or within six years of the act or omission about which you are complaining occurring (or if outside of this period within three years of when you should reasonably have been aware of it)

GDPR

As you have instructed us to act on your behalf, you have entered into a contract with us for the provision of legal services/or you have requested us to take specific steps before entering into a contract. Olliers rely on this as the lawful basis for processing information that we collect and store relating to you

We will be retaining your key electronic data for a period of six years from the date your case has been concluded and at that point it will be deleted from our systems.

The firm is registered under the Lexcel Quality Standard of the Law Society. As a result of this we are subject to periodic checks by outside assessors.

It is necessary for us to hold a quality mark for the provision of Legal Aid services and therefore your file could be selected for an assessment by a Lexcel Auditor and/or the Legal Aid Agency.

All inspections are, of course, conducted in confidence and you will not be contacted by the Lexcel auditor as assessments are undertaken on Olliers procedures and client care.

Please see our website for full details of our Privacy Policy on www.olliers.com.

If you do have any queries relating to your data and/or privacy policy, please contact our Data Protection Officer David Philpott, e mail address davidphilpott@olliers.com.

You have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if you think there is a problem with the way we are handling your data. The ICO can be contacted at https://ico.org.uk/concerns or by telephone: 0303 123 1113.

Olliers Solicitors – Specialist Criminal Defence Law Firm London & Manchester

We hope these FAQs prove useful. However if you require further assistance from a criminal defence lawyer please contact us by telephone on 0161 8341515, by email to info@olliers.com or click here to send us a message.

Olliers provide specialist advice and representation throughout England and Wales. We are previous winners of the Manchester Legal Awards Crime Team of the Year and are ranked as a Top Tier criminal firm in both the 2023 editions of the Legal 500 and Chambers Directory.

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