Last reviewed: 21/03/2023
If you are charged with an offence and found guilty there can be lots of different financial risks to plan for: travel to court, court costs, possible fines, cost of legal representation (if you don’t qualify for legal aid and are not self representing), perhaps compensation. There may be other personal costs such as loss of earnings and childcare. Some of these will apply if you plead guilty, although legal and court costs are lower. If you are found not guilty then courts will compensate your travel and legal costs and so do keep receipts. XR can reimburse travel costs to court where the financial support is necessary, see further information about the financial support available and how to apply here: https://informeddissent.info/access2justice
Read XR Legal Support’s Defendant’s Guide to Court finances
Some people can qualify for legal aid to cover some or all of their defence costs. Defendants will normally get free legal aid if they’re under 18 or receive: Income Support (IS); Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA); Universal Credit (UC); State Pension Guarantee Credit and income-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). They must also pass the Interest of Justice test (Crown Court trials are deemed to automatically satisfy this test).
If none of the above apply then a means test process determines if a defendant qualifies for legal aid. It takes into account: income; family circumstances, eg number of children; essential living costs, eg mortgage or rent. Eligibility also depends on the type of case and where it’s heard.
You can find more info about legal aid and a link to the financial eligibility calculator here
For most people the best way to find out about eligibility is to have an Access to Justice meeting with a protest-experienced solicitor: XR’s legal crowdfund pays for this. The solicitor can assess legal aid as part of the meeting. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don’t qualify for legal aid then it is worth asking your solicitor to make a hardship appeal if your application is turned down as we have been hearing of many defendants who have qualified this way. If you don’t then it is likely you will need to self represent or make a contribution towards the cost of legal representation - depending on the agreement you come to with a lawyer.
Either way legal aid only covers defence costs, and so also weigh up how much the court costs might be, if a fine is possible, and if you may be liable for compensation (for instance damage to property etc).
If you are found guilty, the prosecution will ask for a contribution to their costs, and the judge will usually grant that, although it may be reduced on means. You will also be charged a Victim Surcharge, currently £22 for a Conditional Discharge or £34 for a fine. If your solicitor is not local, make sure they are experienced in working with clients via the phone/skype to save the cost of travel expenses to solicitor meetings. Also if you take part in an action that is far from where you live, you may need to pay travel expenses to several court hearings.
Some people may not want to pay these fines and costs. It is important that you take legal advice as wilful refusal to pay can mean (in extreme circumstances) that you risk deductions from your wages, bailiffs being instructed or being sent to prison (and the costs could still be due post prison).
You might like to consider creating your own crowdfunder to help with costs, or maybe your local group can create one to support with various actions. Examples of other XR crowdfunders can be found here www.crowdjustice.com/extinctionrebellion/. The Court sets fines to be a punishment and if public crowdfunder pages explicitly state that this is the intended aim, then it could cause the Court to set higher fines in general or impose a different sentence.
Please exercise caution when describing the crowdfunder ‘XR Local Group Costs’ would be fine, but not ‘Help pay XR Court fine’, for example.
Please see our page on Insurance
When applying for a mortgage you will need to declare any unspent convictions.