I won my case..... Can I get my costs back?
A straightforward question but I am afraid the answer is not quite as straighforward.
In criminal defence cases the answer will vary as to whether you were tried in the Crown Court or in the Magistrates Court and I am affraid in either venue, the answer is 'not all of them'.
CRIMINAL DEFENCE CASES IN THE MAGISTRATES COURT
Lawyers who have been working in the criminal justice system over the last decade and a half will sigh at the mention of certain legislative changes introduced over that period. The Act likely to raise one of the loudest sighs is the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, LASPO for short. Before the implementation of this Act, anyone privately represented who was acquitted of the charge, be it in Crown Court or the Magistrates Court would get their costs back as long as they were reasonable. The Act changed all that. As far as the Magistrates Court is concerned, costs may be recovered but only at legal aid rates. At the time of writing the hourly rate for preparing a case is £38.69 and the advocacy rate is £48.68.If your case has resulted in your acquittal or the case was discontinued we would make an application to the court for a 'Defendant's Cost Order for payment from 'central funds'. There is a presumption that such an order will be made provided that 'you have not brought the prosecution on yourself'. I have never had an application refused, so don't worry too much about the latter qualification. Unfortunately, the amount recovered would not cover our full costs.
CRIMINAL DEFENCE IN THE CROWN COURT
LASPO's immediate effect was to remove the possibility of all Defence Costs Order in the Crown Court. That situation was revised in 2014, however there is a big BUT. To obtain a DCO the defendant must have applied for Legal AId and had that application refused on the basis that their household disposable income exceeded £37,500. Again, the amount recoverable is limited to Legal Aid rates but these are paid at a higher rate than the Crown Court.
For the most part, if a conviction is obtained, then an application for costs can be made. Whether the bench or Distric Judge order that the defendant pay all of the costs and or compensation requested, will depend on the defendant's means. The court or rather, the courts fines office these days, may also agree that costs and compensation be paid on an 'instalment' basis.
In most cases the costs in bringing the action are recoverable from the other party where the application has been successful. This might not be the case where the other party has no means.