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Should you represent yourself in court?

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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