McNeil & Co Solicitors
Information about your case
On behalf of everyone at the firm may we thank you for your kind instructions in connection with the above matter. We will be pleased to act for you and take this opportunity to set out some information to assist you.
Criminal proceedings can be lengthy, complex and confusing and it is understandable that you will have many questions that you wish to have answered. In this booklet we have sought to explain the most common issues that arise in criminal proceedings, and you are asked to:
- Read the booklet fully, and
- Retain the booklet for future reference
However, this booklet is not intended to replace the advice we give to you, nor does it mean that we are not available to support you throughout your case. If at any time you have questions or concerns then you should not hesitate to contact us.
This booklet is split into the following parts:
- Basic information / McNeil and Co terms and conditions of business.
- Police station cases
- Magistrates’ Court cases
- Crown Court cases
Please note: Your continuing instructions in your matter will amount to acceptance of these Terms and Conditions of Business. 2
Part 1: Basic Information
McNeil and Co. is the trading name of Philip Hanby Limited, a private limited company of which Mark McNeil and Michele Hanby are the directors of (Company No. 6446733). We aim to offer our clients good quality legal services in a friendly, approachable, understandable way.
Our services are provided as solicitors of England and Wales and we are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Registration No. 472031 whose regulatory requirements are set out in the SRA Handbook which can be accessed using the SRA website (www.sra.org.uk).
Our VAT number is: 939 99 52 44
Who will deal with my case?
Your case will be dealt with by our team of criminal lawyers, who consist of
- Mark McNeil (Head of Criminal Department - Solicitor and Crown Court Advocate),
- Lloyd Edwards (Solicitor and Crown Court Advocate) and
- Gemma Walker (Crown Court Clerk, Accredited Police Station Representative).
If at any time any of us are unavailable a member of our administration team will be happy to assist you or take a message.
Overall responsibility for the department remains with Mark McNeil.
Because of the nature of court hearings it is not always possible for the same person to represent you each time, although we will do our best to ensure that you see as few people as possible. Please be assured however that whoever attends court to represent you is a highly qualified professional who is fully informed in relation to your matter. In some cases, particularly those in the Crown Court it may be necessary to instruct a specialist advocate (a Solicitor or Barrister) to represent you.
We will update you by telephone or in writing with progress on your matter regularly. We will communicate with you in plain language. We will explain to you by telephone or in writing the legal work required as your matter progresses.
We will continue to review whether there are alternative methods by which your matter can be funded.
How do I contact you?
Our address is: 141-142 High Street, Lincoln, LN57PJ
Our phone number is: 01522 539111
The office is open between 9am and 5pm on weekdays. We are closed on public holidays and on one or two other days which are advertised. Messages can be left on our answer phone during all other times.
Appointments outside of office hours can be arranged when necessary. If it is necessary to contact us outside of these hours then please contact the head of the criminal department, Mark McNeil, on 07493 076555.
Because we often attend court during the day it is advisable to try and call us between 09.00 and 09.30 or after 3.30pm. If you can email as opposed to calling that will often get a quicker response as we can deal with many queries very quickly even when we are out of the office.
If you leave a message for the lawyer dealing with your case we will try and call you back the same day if that is possible, or no later than the next working day (Monday – Friday).
Keeping in touch
It is important to remember that this is your case and in order to achieve the best outcome we will require your cooperation. Please respond promptly to all requests for information and attend appointments. If your case is not ready due to fault on your part it is likely that a court will order the case to proceed anyway – this would not be in your interests.
If you are on bail then please ensure you attend court as directed. Any failure to attend court may lead to a warrant being issued for your arrest, and being refused bail in future. Failing to attend on a bail date may also be a criminal offence which carries the risk of a prison sentence. Courts will not accept medical notes as a reason not to attend unless the medical certificate specifically states that you are unfit to attend court and the reason why. If you think that you might be late for court (due to travel problems etc.) then please notify our office as soon as possible so that we can inform the court as to what is happening.
Our commitment and responsibilities:
We will do our very best:
- To represent your interests and keep your affairs confidential.
- To explain to you the legal work that may be needed and your chances of success at every stage.
- To keep you informed of progress and to supply you with copies of all relevant correspondence and documentation.
- To deal with your queries promptly and effectively.
- Advise you of the law and any changes during the course of your matter
- Advise you of any circumstances and risks of which we are aware or consider to be reasonably foreseeable that could affect the outcome of your matter.
- Advise you if Legal Aid may be available to you.
- Update you on whether the likely outcomes still justify the likely costs and risks associated with your matter whenever there is a material change in circumstances.
- Keep you updated as to costs
- Provide us with clear, timely and accurate instructions.
- Provide all information and documentation required to complete your matter in a timely manner.
- Safeguard any documents that are likely to be required for discovery.
- Advise us of any specific requirements you have to enable us to try and tailor our service to you.
We strive to offer all our clients an efficient and effective service and we are confident we shall do so. However if you are dissatisfied with the way in which we handle any of your matters, you should not hesitate to discuss your concerns with the fee earner handling your matter. They will do their best to resolve the matter to your satisfaction.
Payments to you
Where we have to pay money to you, it will normally only be paid by way of a cheque in your favour or into an account in your name. It will not be paid in cash or to a third party.
Any monies we hold for you as a client of Andrew Jay & Co will be held in our general instant access client account which is held at Yorkshire Bank.
Any money received on your behalf will be held in our client account. Subject to certain minimum amounts in periods of time set out in the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, interest would be calculated and paid to you at the rate payable by the bank at such time. The period in which interest will normally be paid will run from the date on which the funds are received by us up to date of issue of any cheque from our client account. We will not pay you interest where the sum involved is less than £20.
The liability of this firm (which expression includes its principal and its employees) in respect of breach of contract, breach of duty, fault, negligence or otherwise howsoever arising out of or in connection with our engagement by you shall be limited to advice provided in writing and to an upper limit of £3 million including interest and costs. Our Insurer is QIC Europe Limited and the policy number is 16SOL13855-72988-16042Q16. Their contact details are available from our offices. The insurance covers that part of our Practice carried on from our offices in England and Wales and will extend to acts or omissions wherever in the world they occur.
Any advice we provide is personal to you the client and may not be used or relied upon by anybody else without our written consent.
We will not be liable for any loss or damage which you suffer whether direct or consequential in both contract and/or negligence however arising from the failure of the bank/financial institution with whom we have our client account in which we hold monies on your behalf in connection with any matter which we are conducting for you.
If during this matter you need advice on investments, we may have to refer you to someone who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, as we are not. However, as we are regulated by the Law Society, we may be able to provide certain limited investment services where these are closely linked to the legal work we are doing for you.
We are not authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority. However, we are included on the register maintained by the Financial Conduct Authority so that we can carry on insurance mediation activity, which is broadly the advising on, selling and administration of insurance contracts. This part of our business, including arrangements 5
for complaints or redress if something goes wrong, is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The register can be accessed via the Financial Conduct Authority website at www.fca.org.uk/register.
If it is necessary during the course of a conveyancing transaction for any insurance to be put in place e.g. defective title insurance, lack of building consent we would usually arrange such insurance through Guaranteed Conveyancing Solutions or Conveyancing Risk Management, but we are not contractually obliged to conduct business in this way and we receive no commission for doing so.
Money Laundering Precautions
Unless you have been known to us for more than two years, we are required by law to apply procedures to guard against the risk of money laundering. Therefore we must verify the identity of all our clients and sometimes people related to them. Normally the documents we requite sight of are your passport or photographic driving licence and one other document to establish your address, such as a recent utility bill, council tax statement or bank statement. Could you kindly forward copies of these please? If you cannot provide us with the specific identification requested, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss other ways to verify your identity.
At the start of your matter we will normally ask you to advise us as to the source of any funds you will be using. It is simplest for us if the source of those funds is an account in your name in a UK bank or building society. We are normally only able to accept cash up to a limit of £500.00 in any 28-day period. We will normally only pay money out by way of a cheque in your favour or into an account in your name.
Whilst we are generally obliged to keep clients’ affairs confidential, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 can oblige us, in certain circumstances, to report information about (suspected) financial offences. If we make a report we are unable to tell the client concerned. Any report may result in an investigation by the police, H.M Customs and Revenue or other authorities.
We may carry out checks to satisfy ourselves as to your identity and in this respect this may involve an electronic check through a number of providers. By signing the terms of the business agreement you agree that we may use the Personal Information provided by you in order to conduct the appropriate anti-fraud checks. Personal Information that you provide may be disclosed to a credit reference or fraud prevention agency, which may keep a record of that information.
Equality and Diversity Policy
We operate a policy whereby we will treat each other, all our clients, collaborators and competitors with equal dignity and respect irrespective of their race, creed, sexual orientation and physical or mental impairment. If any person takes issue with the above or believes that their own dignity or needs have not been fairly addressed, we wish to know immediately and will take steps to remedy their concerns. We will also ensure that our principles are followed by all agents engaged by us and we will not tolerate discrimination of any kind against clients or staff. Our recruitment policy follows the above policy.
In addition and if possible and necessary we will engage the services of a translator (as communication is essential) and/or provide home visits.
Please contact us if you require a copy of our Equality and Diversity policy.
If you have an e-mail facility we may correspond with you using e-mail, unless you instruct us that you do not wish us to do so. Our e-mails are not encrypted and in deciding whether you wish to communicate by e-mail you should bear in mind that an e-mail is an insecure method of communication. You will agree that we will not have any liability to you if a properly addressed e-mail is read by someone else. We charge for e-mails in the same way that we charge for letters.
To enable us to carry out your instructions it will be necessary for you to provide us with personal data from time to time e.g. name, address, telephone number, bank details, GP details, employment details. We will only request such data as is necessary to progress your matter. We use the information you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you and for related purposes including:
- updating and enhancing client records
- analysis to help us manage our practice
- statutory returns
- legal and regulatory compliance
Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the General Data Protection Regulations and our duty of confidentiality. Please note that our work for you may require us (after consultation with you) to provide your personal data to third parties such as expert witnesses and other professional advisers. You have a right of access under data protection legislation to the personal data that we hold about you. We may from time to time send you information that we think might be of interest to you. If you do not wish to receive that information please notify our office at any time.
You have a right under data protection legislation to: -
- access the personal data that we hold about you
- have us rectify any incorrect data we hold
- request we delete any personal data we hold
- restrict our use of your personal data
All such requests should be made to the Firm’s Director Mark McNeil.
We also perform some processing of personal data for purposes required by law eg. money laundering checks. In some cases we will need to process sensitive personal data for the above purposes. As part of our risk management strategy, we reserve the right to make a search with a credit reference agency to which the provisions above in the section on money laundering will apply. We may also keep your details for a reasonable period for marketing purposes. It is a condition of our accepting your instructions that we may process your data for providing legal services and administration.
We are professionally and legally obliged to keep your affairs confidential. However, solicitors may be required by statute to make a disclosure to police/government/financial agencies where they know or suspect that a transaction may involve money laundering or terrorist financing. If we make a disclosure in relation to your matter, we may not be able to tell you that a disclosure has been made. We may have to stop working on your matter for a period of time and may not be able to tell you why.
If we know or suspect that you have given false information in relation to an application for legal aid we are obliged to disclose that fact to the Legal Aid Agency.
If you wish any other person to be given access to your information, or details of your case (for example a relative) then please contact us and we can discuss the implications of this and advise you further.
External firms or organisations may conduct audit or quality checks on our practice. These external firms or organisations are required to maintain confidentiality in relation to your files.
In some circumstances you may consider we ought to stop acting for you, for example you may decide you cannot give us clear or proper instructions on how to proceed, or if it is clear that you have lost confidence in how we carry out your work. You may end your instructions to us in writing at any time, but we can keep all your papers and documents while there is still money owed to us for fees and expenses.
If we have not met with you personally or we have met you other than in our offices, the Consumer Protection (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 apply to the contract between us for the supply of our legal services. This means you have the right to cancel your instructions to us by contacting us by post or fax to this office within 14 days of receiving this letter. Where such notice of cancellation is received we will not make any charge for work done and will refund any monies paid by you on account of costs.
To exercise the right to cancel or to terminate your instructions you must inform us of your decision by a clear written statement (eg. a letter sent by post or fax but not an email).
We may decide to stop acting for you only with good reason. We must give you reasonable notice that we will stop acting for you.
If you or we decide that we should stop acting for you, you will pay our charges up until that point. These are calculated as set out in these terms and conditions.
The Storage of Papers and Documents
After completing your matter, we are entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing to us in respect of outstanding charges and disbursements. In addition we will store your file of papers in our archives for a minimum period of six years. We keep files on the understanding that we can destroy them 6 years after the conclusion of your case. We will not destroy documents you ask us to deposit in safe custody. If we take papers or documents out of storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act for you, we will not normally charge for such retrieval. If papers are requested then you are responsible for their collection.
Legally funded matters: If your matter is transferred to another solicitor we are still required to maintain a copy of those papers unless any new solicitor signs an undertaking to make them available for Legal Aid Agency audit.
McNeil & Co is committed to high quality legal advice and client care. However we do have a Complaints Procedure for those hopefully rare occurrences when you feel we have not lived up to our high aspirations. This is set out below:
- We aim to handle all complaints promptly, fairly and effectively.
- You are always entitled to complain if any aspect of our service causes you to question whether we have acted inefficiently, improperly or other than in accordance with your instructions.
- You should complain initially to the fee earner with conduct of your case, preferably in writing. In the event that he/she is unable to resolve your complaint please contact the Firm’s Complaints Manager, Mark McNeil on 01522 539111 or by post to our Lincoln office.
- A complaint can include dissatisfaction over a bill.
- If Mr. McNeil cannot resolve your complaint, and we undertake to let you have a decision within 14 days of its receipt, you have the right to have it considered by one of Mr. McNeil's senior colleagues provided you give written notice to that effect within 14 days. He/she has the right to overrule Mr. Hanby’s decision and find in your favour. They will give you their decision within 14 days of the referral to them. We undertake to accept their decision.
- Whilst we would hope that these time limits would be adhered to, it may be in certain instances, that the investigation of the complaint, operational/ domestic commitments of the Firm or its personnel, or indeed your own circumstances, may require an extension of these times. We recognise however that time is of the essence in the nature of matters such as these and will thus strive to comply with them so far as possible.
Whilst we would hope that these time limits would be adhered to, it may be in certain instances, that the investigation of the complaint, operational/ domestic commitments of the Firm or its personnel, or indeed your own circumstances, may require an extension of these times. We recognise however that time is of the essence in the nature of matters such as these and will thus strive to comply with them so far as possible.
Should you have a complaint about the Community Legal Service, which is a network of organisations that provide help with legal problems or information about legal issues, you should raise this with the Legal Services Commission. There is a leaflet available advising how to make a complaint about the Community Legal Service. This can be provided to you upon request.
Part 2: Funding
Unless you have expressly agreed to pay us privately, we will make an application for legal aid on your behalf.
All police station work (which includes all police investigations regardless of where the interview takes place) is paid for under the legal aid scheme, irrespective of your income. Work outside of the police station prior to charge, may be funded under the advice and assistance scheme. We may ask you to complete forms CRM 1 and 2 to determine eligibility. If you are not eligible for advice and assistance outside of the police station pre-charge, then we will either do that work free of charge, or alternatively not do that work unless and until you agree to pay us privately for it.
Investigations by non-police agencies e.g. Department for Work and Pensions, RSPCA etc are not funded under the police station scheme. You may however be eligible for means tested advice and assistance and we will assess whether or not you qualify.
Legal aid when charged
Magistrates’ Court and Crown Court legal aid is means tested in most cases. Most people on benefits and all persons under 18 years of age are eligible for legal aid. If you are in receipt of any state benefits please bring documentary proof of those benefits into the office so that we can photocopy them and keep them in our file for future reference.
If you are eligible for magistrates’ court legal aid then you will pay no legal aid costs in relation to those proceedings (if you plead guilty or are found guilty you may be liable to pay prosecution costs).
If you have disposable income in excess of £37,500 you will not qualify for Crown Court legal aid. The rules, and the calculations of income are complex and in many cases we will have to make a ‘hardship’ application on your behalf to assess full eligibility. If you remain ineligible for legal aid we will discuss with you the option of paying privately for your defence.
If you are eligible for legal aid in the Crown Court then you may be liable to pay contributions for the first 6 months of your case (income contributions) and at the end of your case if convicted (capital contributions). Most people on state benefit pay nothing (if you plead guilty or are found guilty you may be liable to pay prosecution costs).
The rules in relation to Crown Court legal aid are complex and we will guide you through the application process. If legal aid is granted you will be informed as to whether there is any contribution payable. If you find the payment proposals unacceptable then you must notify us immediately so that we can reject the offer of legal aid.
If you are required to pay contributions towards Crown Court legal aid and fail to do so, interest charges will be added and the Legal Aid Agency may take legal action to enforce the monies owed. Enforcement action can 10
include the clamping, seizure and/or sale of your vehicle (and please note that there is no legal aid available to assist you in challenging this enforcement).
Other enforcement options include:
- charging order secured against any property owned
- 8% interest on charging orders
- High Court enforcement or distress warrant to visit to client’s home to seize goods to value of order
- third party debt order against any money deposited in an account
- attachment of earnings order
It is vital therefore that you fully understand the financial implications of accepting legal aid subject to income or capital contributions.
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 under contributions may in some cases be apportioned, meaning that you will pay less. We will discuss this with you further should this situation arise.
If you are not eligible for legal aid, or you reject the offer of legal aid, we will not be able to act for you unless you agree to pay privately.
Court of Appeal
We will apply for legal aid funding on your behalf if you wish to appeal or resist an appeal by the Attorney General. Most cases at the Court of Appeal qualify for legal aid, but legal aid is subject to Recovery of Defence Costs Order – we will discuss whether this might affect you in the event that an appeal is lodged.
If legal aid is refused we and your advocate may be willing to continue to act in certain cases. We will discuss this should the need arise.
If you are paying for your case privately we will write to you with full details of our charging rates and further information. You will never be liable for any fees unless and until you have expressly agreed to pay us privately. In most cases we are able to agree a fixed fee for your representation. This avoids uncertainty and means that you will not have any “nasty surprises” on our costs. We normally expect payment in full at the outset of your case or in accordance with an affordable installment plan agreed with you.
All reference to fees is expressed exclusive of value added tax (VAT) at the prevailing rate (currently 20%).
Payment of any outstanding sum is due to us on delivery of our bill. Interest will be charged on a daily basis at 8% per annum from the date of the bill in cases where payment is not made within 28 days of delivery.
We will update you on the cost of your matter in the event that you are paying privately for our services (see funding above) at least at monthly intervals. We will update you on whether the likely outcomes still justify the likely costs and risks associated with your matter whenever there is a material change in circumstances. We will update you on the likely timescales for each stage of this matter and any important changes in those estimates. If you are paying privately we will set out the details in a separate letter to you.
If you plead guilty or are found guilty you may be liable to pay prosecution costs. We will be able to discuss the likely costs level once we have full information in relation to your case.
If you plead guilty or are found guilty you may be asked to pay a fine and/or compensation. In some cases the prosecution will seek to recover from you the ‘proceeds of your crime’ (called a ‘confiscation order’) – if yours is such a case we will discuss this with you at a very early stage as it may impact on the plea you wish to enter.
There will also be in most cases a victim surcharge to pay. This is effectively a tax levied by the Government. The amount of the victim surcharge will depend on the sentence you receive, but you should be aware that it is not dependent on your financial means.
We will discuss the implications of these costs once the nature of the case against you is known.
Part 3: Police station cases
The police may arrest you or seek to interview you by prior appointment. Interviews can take place at a police station, your home of place of work, or other location (such as a prison if you are already in custody).
There is no such thing as ‘a little chat’. The core business of the police is to arrest, charge and then have people punished. They are not your friend and they never act in your best interests. Police offices sometimes say that things will be quicker without a solicitor – this is rarely true, in fact once we know about your detention we can actually act to speed things up. And remember, if you way something you ought not to have, you might have a lot of time during the years you spend in prison regretting a little wait while we are called out to assist you. Police station advice is always free and we provide a 24 hour 365 day a year call out to the police station service. This means that as soon as you ask for McNeil and Co. we are contacted and will respond, in the majority of cases, within a few minutes.
Therefore if you are arrested, or are asked to speak to the police at any time, you have the right to speak to a solicitor and it is in your interests to do so. In a small number of cases where for example there is not going to be any police interview (e.g. drink driving, or arrested on a court warrant) the rules are different and you will be offered advice by ‘CDS Direct’ – a government funded advice centre. You are advised to accept that advice and also ask them that they contact us immediately so that we know of your arrest and can assist further should the need arise.
Cases are sometimes dealt with speedily, at other times the investigation can last many months. It is important that you keep in touch with us. If the police contact you directly then let us know immediately – do not assume that they will contact us as well – they like it when we are kept out of the loop as our job is to protect you.
You have lots of rights and protections in the police station – it is our job to ensure that these rights are acted upon.
Part 4: Magistrates’ Court cases
If you are charged, then in almost all cases you will make your first appearance at a magistrates’ court.
Credit for guilty plea
At the first hearing, you will be expected to indicate whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty. You are entitled to a 1/3 discount if you indicate a plea at this stage. If you do not plead guilty at this stage, the maximum 12 credit you can receive for a guilty plea at any subsequent hearing is ¼ (25%). That credit will diminish to nothing should the case proceed to trial and you are convicted after trial.
Some cases can only be tried in a magistrates’ court, some only in a Crown Court, and in some cases you will be given the choice. We will advise you as to which of these applies in your case and assist you in making the right decision if you have a choice.
If you plead guilty in the magistrates’ court sentencing may take place immediately, or within a short space of time thereafter, or in some instances your case will be committed to the Crown Court for sentence. We will notify you of the likely outcome, before you enter a plea, so that you know exactly what is likely to happen.
If you plead not guilty to a case being tried in the magistrates’ court it will be adjourned for trial.
Part 5: Crown Court cases
More serious cases are sent to the Crown Court for trial and/or sentence. Trial at the Crown Court is before both a Judge and Jury, and in fact this is the better outcome in some instances as the trial may be fairer. However, this must be balanced against the possible prosecution costs, time it will take to conclude the case and the fact that sentencing powers in this court are greater.
You should be aware that cases in the Crown Court are now dealt with very speedily under a scheme called Better Case Management. Once it has been decided that your case is going to the Crown Court the case will be listed for a Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing. At this hearing, if you have not already indicated your plea, you will be expected to enter your plea. The full papers will NOT have been served by this hearing; nevertheless the ¼ (25%) discount for a guilty plea is ONLY available at this hearing. If the case is adjourned to trial the discount for any subsequent guilty plea will be reduced, potentially down to nothing if the case proceeds to trial and you are convicted after trial. It is very important that you meet with our Crown Court team at the earliest opportunity as the earlier you can be advised on plea, the greater credit you are likely to receive. Where your case is clearly going to go to trial, we can begin preparing it without delay.
If you plead Guilty the case will NOT normally be adjourned for reports or to allow you to put your affairs in order. You will be sentenced on the same day as you enter your plea (as happens in the Magistrates’ Court).
You should also be aware that all Crown Court cases are now dealt with digitally and so there will be no hard copy of the papers.
We will guide you throughout the process to ensure that you know what is happening and why.
If at any time you have questions or concerns then please contact us.
Any dispute or legal issue arising from our terms of business will be determined by English Law and will be submitted to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts.
Terms and Conditions of Business
Unless otherwise agreed and subject to the application of then current hourly rates, these Terms and Conditions of Business shall apply to any future instructions given by you to this firm.