Tag Archives: criminal defence solicitor

McKenzie friends – saving money can cost a fortune

Imagine the unimaginable – you have been convicted of a crime that you didn’t commit!

Your trial lawyers have told you that there is no hope of an appeal. You can’t afford more legal advice from a criminal law specialist so you decide to look for a cheaper alternative.

McKenzie friends – cheaper and just as effective?

mckenzie friendsSurely there must be someone who can help? Perhaps that friend from university who studied law? Or someone who’s website says they are “cheaper than a solicitor or barrister, but just as effective”?

Think very carefully before hiring someone legally unqualified to conduct your case. As Paul Wright recently found out, it can cost you dearly.

Mr Wright was injured in 2004 when three plastic bags were left inside him during an operation. He hired a “McKenzie Friend”, George Rusz, to support him during his claim.  He ended up with only £20,000 in damages from the NHS.

To make matters worse he had to pay £75,000 in costs to the NHS because of the incompetent way Mr Rusz had conducted the case.  This meant that despite winning he had to pay out £55,000.

Fortunately, Mr Wright recovered those costs and the damages he should have received had his case been dealt with properly after he sued Mr Rusz for giving negligent advice. He was awarded £336,759 in total. This finally came fifteen years after his injuries.

There is a risk that he may be out of pocket a lot longer.  If Mr Rusz can’t, or won’t, pay it could be years before he sees the money, if ever.

The consequences of poor and unregulated advice

mckenzie friends
The Court of Appeal

If you were to use a McKenzie Friend, or any unqualified person, in conducting a criminal appeal the consequences might be worse than a financial loss. The Court of Appeal has the power to order, in appeals without merit, that some time already served should not count towards your sentence. You may also face a hefty claim for prosecution costs.

McKenzie Friends may have a legitimate and useful purpose when they stick to their original purpose and role – providing moral support, taking notes, and giving advice in court – and do it competently.

Before instructing a person to assist with your case you will want to ensure that they are properly regulated and insured to avoid the problems created for Mr Wright.  If in doubt, check it out.

Choose to instruct a specialist in criminal law and proceedings

A common misconception that may drive potential clients towards the use of McKenzie friends is publicity about legal costs and the availability of legal aid.

mckenzie friends
VHS Fletchers – Specialist criminal solicitors

We cannot stress enough that our legal advice and representation is always free to you if you are interviewed by the police.  This remains true whether you are under arrest or having a voluntary interview.

Our specialist criminal lawyers can advise you on whether you have a defence, and help you put that defence forward, advising on prospects of success and instructing experts to help along the way.

As a result, if you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about a criminal offence then make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.

The advantages of such early 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.

In a case involving an advice on appeal from the Crown Court legal aid may be available to provide initial advice and take the matter forward where there are arguable grounds.

 You can find your nearest office here.

VHS Fletchers offices across the East Midlands

Alternatively you can use the contact form below:


Chesterfield criminal defence solicitor Denney Lau’s first 7 days with VHS Fletchers

New recruit, Chesterfield Criminal defence solicitor Denney Lau, has hit the ground running in his first seven days at VHS Fletchers.  His caseload perhaps illustrates the varied and unexpected nature of an experienced criminal law specialist.

chesterfield crime solicitor denney lau
Chesterfield criminal defence solicitor Denney Lau

Day 1

On day 1 Denney represented three clients before Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court.  All three had the benefit of criminal legal aid.

The first client denied possession of bladed article.  The case was suitable for summary trial and a trial has been listed at Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court.  A second client faced an allegation of theft.  It was inappropriate to make progress so Denney successfully argued for an adjournment.

The final client of the day faced allegation of attempted robbery and possession of a bladed article.  This was a case that could only be dealt with at the Crown Court, so the case was sent there.  His client remained on bail.

Day 2

chesterfield criminal defence solicitor denney lau
Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court

Day two say Denney again at Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court.  He dealt with two clients under the legal aid scheme.  One defendant pleaded guilty to breaching a restraining order and was fined.  A second was in breach of a community order and received a similar financial penalty.

Denney also represented a client under the Chesterfield court duty solicitor scheme.  He face a charge of harassment.  A not guilty plea was entered so the case adjourned for trial.  Denney is awaiting further instructions

Day 3

Once again Denney was representing a client before Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court.  This time his client was facing allegations of burglary and possession of a bladed article.  The allegations were denied and therefore were allocated to Derby Crown Court for trial.  His client remained on bail.  Representation was given under criminal legal aid

Day 4

Denney represented a client in custody under the legal aid scheme.  He was in breach of both a restraining order and his previous community order.  He had, unfortunately, run out of chances so received a fourteen week sentence.

Separately Denney dealt with a client as duty solicitor.  This client had unpaid fines dating back to 2010 so was at risk of being sent to prison for default.  Instead, Denney secured him a further opportunity to pay under a suspended committal order.

Day 5

chesterfield criminal defence solicitor denney lau dwp interviewAvoiding court in the morning, Denney instead provided advice and assistance under a fixed fee arrangement to a suspect being interviewed by the Department of Works and Pensions on suspicion of benefit fraud.  No decision was made as to whether to prosecute.

In the afternoon, Denney was representing a client before Sheffield Magistrates’ Court who was denying a serious sexual offence.  The case was allocated to Sheffield Crown Court.  His client had the benefit of both legal aid and bail.

Day 6

An application to adjourn a dishonesty offence was made and granted before the Magistrates.  A legal aid application was submitted.

chesterfield criminal defence solicitor drink drive representationA new client was seen in the office facing an allegation of excess alcohol.  Legal representation at the future court date was possible because of an affordable fixed fee.

That evening Denney undertook his first period on call and dealt with three cases during the night at Chesterfield police station.  Two clients facing investigation for a serious sexual offence and possession of drugs with intent to supply were released under investigations so that the police could conclude their enquiries.

A third client was charged to Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court following admissions to an assault on paramedics.

Chesterfield police station

Day 7

The day started with a meeting at the Derbyshire Law Centre in Chesterfield.  Chesterfield crime solicitor Ben Strelley also attended.  It was an important opportunity to discuss the legal services offered by both us and the Law Centre to ensure that our clients have the opportunity to access legal advice for all of their problems.

chesterfield criminal legal aid solicitorThereafter, Denney has another busy day at Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court.  He dealt with a defendant as court duty solicitor who pleaded guilty to having a dog that was dangerously out of control.  A basis of plea was put forward that was not accepted by the prosecution so a trial of issue of Newton hearing was listed.  Denney awaits further instructions.

He concluded a case by way of a conditional discharge for a client in possession of the controlled substance, Mamba.

A second client had committed a new offence of criminal damage while subject to a suspended sentence.  Despite that the order was allowed to continue and he was given unpaid work for the new offence.

Finally, Denney made representations on behalf of a client that persuaded the probation service to withdraw proceedings for breach of a suspended sentence order.

Contact Chesterfield criminal defence solicitor Denney Lau

Chesterfield criminal defence solicitor Denney Lau

Although you can see that Denney is busy, he is never too busy to take your call and represent you in police interview or at court.

We know that Denney’s clients will expect him to see their cases through to the end.  As a result, he will aim to provide continuity of representation all the way through to your Crown Court trial.

Chesterfield criminal defence solicitor Denney Lau can be contacted on 01246 283000 or you can use the contact form below.