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, fines, cost of legal representation (if you don’t qualify for legal aid and are not self representing), compensation and your possible loss of earnings. If you are found not guilty then courts will compensate your travel and so do keep receipts. XR reimburses travel costs to court where the financial support is necessary apply by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 automatically 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 IOJ (Crown Court trials are deemed to automatically satisfy this test).
If none of the above apply then the 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
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 is the possible fine, and if you are liable for compensation (for instance damage to property etc)?
If you are found guilty, don’t forget you will need to take into account court costs and the prosecution usually apply for a contribution to their costs. 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.
If the court sentences you to a fine, this is means related. The court can also order that you pay compensation and a Victim Surcharge.
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).
XR note: XR don’t pay for costs, however they do encourage you and local groups to make crowdfunder pages to cover them. Such as those 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.