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Many people ask the question ‘should you represent yourself in court?’  This is in many cases because they know they are not eligible for legal aid or perhaps think they are not eligible.  People make this decision often without checking the position with a solicitor.

A recent study by Dr Charlotte Walker of York St John University revealed the following:

“In this study, in Court A, in 80 out of 220 (36%) hearings, the defendant appeared unrepresented; and in Court B, this was the case in 25 out of 183 (14%) hearings.

The defendants appeared without legal representation in 105 out of 403 (26%) hearings in total, which represents a significant minority.

Based upon the observations and interviews, this was due to a range of reasons including financial factors; defendants not wanting to delay proceedings; and defendants not seeing the value of having a lawyer.”

We accept that not everyone necessarily needs to be represented in court.  However, if legal aid is available then this is an entitlement.  It makes sense to ensure that all angles are covered.

It is perhaps ironic that some of the seemingly more basic cases, such as road traffic prosecutions, often throw up the trickiest legal issues.

According to Dr Walker, numerous studies have found that unrepresented defendants tend to struggle to represent themselves in court (Dell [1971], McBarnet [1981], Shapland [1981], Transform Justice [2016], Walker [2021]).

Can I afford legal representation?

If you are eligible for legal aid in the magistrates’ court, there is no cost to you. In the crown court, a contribution may be payable depending on your income. We can tell you in advance what the rules are in this regard.

You can read more about the legal aid schemes here.

Where legal aid is not available, many people are surprised at just how affordable “private representation” is. Many people have the idea that solicitors charge many hundreds of pounds per hour, and whilst a few do in corporate and commercial work, the pricing in criminal law is much more competitive and fixed fees are commonly offered for many cases.

You can read more about some of our fixed fees here.

There is no one answer to funding your criminal case, but you should always contact us for free to find out your funding options in detail. You have nothing to lose by doing so.

Contact an expert criminal defence lawyer

Before you have to ask the question ‘should you represent yourself in court’ contact one of our criminal defence solicitors at your nearest office.

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Alternatively use the contact form below:


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This week Nicholas Hawkes become the first person to be convicted for the new offence of “Cyber-Flashing”. Hawkes sent unsolicited photos of his erect penis to a 15-year-old girl and a woman.

The woman took screenshots of the image on WhatsApp and reported Hawkes to Essex Police the same day.


Sefer Mani, of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the East of England, said:

“Cyber-flashing is a grotesque crime and the fact we were able to deliver swift justice for the two victims shows the new law is working.

Everyone should feel safe wherever they are and not be subjected to receiving unwanted sexual images.

I urge anyone who feels they have been a victim of cyber-flashing to report it to the police and know that they will be taken seriously and have their identities protected.”

This offence came in to force on 31 January 2024 and was created by the Online Security Act 2023. The Act inserts a new provision into the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (s 66A, an offence known formally as ‘Sending etc photograph or film of genitals’).

How is cyber-flashing committed?

A person (A) who intentionally sends or gives a photograph or film of any person’s genitals to another person (B) commits an offence if:

a) A intends that B will see the genitals and be caused alarm, distress or humiliation, or

(b) A sends or gives such a photograph or film for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification and is reckless as to whether B will be caused alarm, distress or humiliation.

References to sending or giving such a photograph or film to another person include, in particular:

(a) sending it to another person by any means, electronically or otherwise,

(b) showing it to another person, and

(c) placing it for a particular person to find.

What is the sentence for this offence?

Cyber-flashing carries a maximum penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment. A conviction also means that the notification requirements under the SOA 2003 also apply, depending on sentence length (commonly referred to as the Sex Offender Register).

This offence is one of a number enacted by the Online Safety Act 2023.

Seek advice from an expert criminal lawyer

Seeking legal advice at the earliest opportunity will allow us to provide advice to you about the law and the evidence in either a police investigation or a prosecution.

If you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about any criminal allegation make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.  We will be present in your interview to advise through the investigation stage.

The advantages of such early advice legal advice can be found here.


If you have already been interviewed or face court proceedings we can still make a real difference to the outcome of your case.

Legal aid may well be available to fund your defence at court.


We have offices across the East Midlands and will happily travel across the country to provide representation for all types of offences.

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Alternatively you can use the contact form below.


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There has been a lot of press coverage following reports before Christmas that the Court of Appeal had freed a woman prisoner due to her being pregnant.  The issue is regularly in the news, as shown by this story from 2022.  Some uncharitably view pregnancy as a potential ‘get out of jail free’ card.

The lady had previously received a mandatory five-year minimum term for a firearms offence, so the revelation that the sentence was reduced to two years imprisonment and suspended sparked some surprise.

pregnancy as mitigation

As with all stories like this, it is wise to refrain from commenting before the full facts are disclosed, and following the release of the appeal judgment, it is now known, perhaps not surprisingly, that this is a somewhat exceptional case.

Unknown to anyone at the original sentencing hearing, including the appellant herself, she was then pregnant. The fresh evidence showed that the appellant learned of her pregnancy only when she underwent routine testing upon her admission to HMP Bronzefield after she had been sentenced. Her pregnancy was therefore a fact existing at the time of the sentencing hearing, and one which would undoubtedly have been an important factor in the recorder’s decision if it had then been known.

That factor in itself is somewhat unremarkable, and it is important to note that there were particular circumstances relating to this lady that the Court of Appeal focussed on.

Pregnancy as mitigation

The individual circumstances of this pregnancy included:

  1. A family history of premature labour suggesting familial predisposition and therefore enhanced risk for the appellant, and repeated episodes of antepartum bleeding of unknown origin (‘ABUO’) during this pregnancy. ABUO episodes are clinically significant indicators of heightened likelihoods of serious complications including miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, placental abruption, foetal distress and hyperbilirubinemia.
  2. Incarceration therefore created for the appellant a real and present danger to safe delivery and proper neonatal development for her baby.
  3. A personal history of a very traumatic previous pregnancy loss, the detail of which it is unnecessary to set out here, and other previous trauma including domestic abuse, as well as a history of anxiety and depression intensifying the appellant’s vulnerability to mental health deterioration under the stress of pregnancy, labour and neonatal care in a prison setting.
  4. Incarceration whilst pregnant for this appellant, therefore, has been and would be frightening, disorientating and traumatic in a way that was far beyond any unavoidable norm.
  5. The recent development of pre-eclampsia, a condition which was diagnosed in the days before the hearing and which requires a level of monitoring and a reliable means of rapid specialist intervention that present particular challenges in the prison setting, which has added to the appellant’s fears for her own health and for her unborn child.


There was strong personal mitigation in this case apart from the various ways, not limited to its particular, much heightened health risks, why this pregnancy made imprisonment an unusually onerous punishment for this appellant.

The Court concluded:

“…we are satisfied that when the appellant’s pregnancy and its specific attendant consequences and risks, for the appellant and her unborn baby, are added to the other personal mitigation available to the appellant, there are exceptional circumstances relating to the appellant and her particular offence that, taken together, render it unjust to impose a custodial term of at least 5 years. The experience of custody was going to be, and has proved, traumatic and dangerous for this appellant beyond any kind of norm. By the date of the appeal hearing, she had in fact served the equivalent of a 14-month sentence, but the weight of punishment that has constituted for her will have been qualitatively equivalent to a much stiffer sentence. There are impeccable prospects of rehabilitation, and the interests of the appellant’s unborn child are a weighty factor if, as we have concluded, a sufficient custodial term, unconstrained by the statutory minimum, would be 2 years or shorter.

In all those circumstances, and on balance, we concluded that it was in the interests of justice to take the very exceptional course, for an offence of possessing the weapon involved in this case, of suspending the appellant’s sentence.”

It can be seen from the factual analysis of this case that pregnancy does not mean immunity from a custodial sentence. However, in all cases, pregnancy as mitigation will be an influential factor to be taken into account, which is why, in all such cases, our experienced lawyers are equipped to present a compelling case to any sentencing court.

Contact an expert criminal lawyer

Part of our preparation for sentence will be to discuss with you what information can be out before the court to mitigate sentence or secure a non-custodial sentence.  Pregnancy as mitigation is perhaps unusual but will of course be an important factor in any case.

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We have criminal lawyers based in Chesterfield, Mansfield, Nottingham, Derby and Newark.  The contact details are here.

Alternatively you can use the contact form below.


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On 28th October 2023 provisions in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 came into effect, enacting changes to the laws in relation to the rehabilitation of offenders.

These amendments extend the scope of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act as it applies to England and Wales so that certain custodial sentences of over four years currently excluded from rehabilitation may become spent, unless imposed in respect of certain offences.

It also amends the times at which different sentences may become spent and makes provision on the face of the Act for the rehabilitation periods that apply to certain orders on conviction.

The government states that over 120,000 former offenders will find it easier to get work and turn their lives away from crime following this change in the law.

Key Changes

Custodial sentences of four years or more years for less serious crimes become ‘spent’ after a seven-year period of rehabilitation, as long as no further offence is committed.

Some of the more serious sexual, violent, and terrorist offences are excluded from these changes.

The new rehabilitation periods are as follows:

Sentence Adults Under 18s
(Adult) Community Order/Youth Rehabilitation Order The last day on which the order has effect The last day on which the order has effect
Custody of 1 year or less 1 year 6 months
Custody of more than 1 year and up to 4 years 4 years 2 years
Custody of more than 4 years* 7 years 3.5 years

*excluding serious sexual, violent, or terrorist offences, that continue to never be spent

Previous rehabilitation periods were:

Sentence Adults Under 18s
(Adult) Community Order/Youth Rehabilitation Order 1 year beginning with the last day on which the order has effect 6 months beginning with the last day on which the order has effect
Custody of 6 months or less 2 years 18 months
Custody of more than 6 months and up to 30 months 4 years 2 years
Custody of more than 30 months and up to 4 years 7 years 3.5 years
Custody of more than 4 years Conviction is never spent Conviction is never spent

The actual detail of these changes can be quite complex, so do not hesitate to contact us to discuss the direct implications of these changes on your own circumstances.

How can we help?

 We will provide advice on the effect of any sentence.  This will be done at the conclusion of proceedings.  If you need further advice then please contact your nearest office.  Our experienced criminal solicitors will be happy to help.

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The Single Justice Procedure (“SJP”) is designed to enable magistrates’ courts to deal with minor offences more efficiently, while still ensuring rigorous, open and fair justice. Whether those aims are in fact met is the subject of some intense debate, with a number of high-profile journalists consistently exposing weaknesses in the system.

535,000 cases were heard by magistrates via the Single Justice Procedure in 2020.

Problems have been raised with the transparency of the procedure and the unfairness of some of the outcomes have been highlighted.

How does it work?

SJP was introduced by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. It allows prosecutors – who decide whether a case should be taken through the procedure – to deal with cases involving adult defendants accused of lesser offences that cannot result in a prison sentence, such as speeding, driving without insurance, TV license evasion and train fare evasion.

single justice procedure

Defendants receive a notice containing the charge by post, with a statement setting out the facts of the offence and guidance on what steps to take, including their right to a lawyer. They have the option to plead guilty by post or online, or ask for a court hearing. There must be a hearing if they want to plead not guilty, but defendants sometimes ask for a hearing to plead guilty, for example if they want to argue against a driving ban.

If they plead guilty or do not respond within the 21-day time limit, their case will be dealt with through the SJP. If they plead not guilty or ask for a court hearing, the case goes to a hearing in open court. No defendant can be dealt with via the SJP against their will.

A single magistrate conducts SJP, advised by a professional lawyer dealing with the case on paper. There’s no prosecutor or defendant present. They can deal with the case at any time, rather than on a specific date.

The same law and principles apply to trials in a single justice procedure as a traditional trial. The prosecution must prove their case beyond reasonable doubt and their written evidence must satisfy the same rules as evidence in a trial in open court.

How was the Single Justice Procedure expanded?

From 4 January 2023, prosecutors can deal with non-imprisonable cases involving companies without the need to go to court.

For companies, non-imprisonable cases are for lesser offences, such as:

  • excess vehicle weight
  • lack of or incorrect operator’s licence
  • tachograph offences
  • failure to give identification of a driver

SJP will be the same for companies as it is for individuals. The decision as to whether to prosecute a company using SJP or in court is decided by the prosecutor.

As with all SJP cases, defendants can still choose to have their case heard in a court. They can also submit a plea on paper, rather than electronically, where needed.

When a company is a defendant, the plea and means forms must be signed by either a:

  • company secretary
  • company director
  • company solicitor

We recommend that any individual or company facing prosecution take early legal advice to secure the best outcome.

Contact one of our expert criminal lawyers

 We have offices across the East Midlands.  Should you receive paperwork relating to a court hearing you can find your nearest office here.

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Alternatively you can use the contact form below:


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