High Court victory against plans to make the innocent pay their own defence costsFriday 18th June 2010
The Law Society today hailed its resounding victory in defeating the previous Government’s plans to make acquitted defendants pay most of the costs of their own defence.
The judgment has ruled unlawful an attempt by the previous Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw, to cap the costs paid to people acquitted in criminal cases.
Commenting on the judgment, Law Society President Robert Heslett said:
"This is a great victory for the Society on behalf of innocent people who have been prosecuted by the state. The High Court's ruling strikes down the previous Lord Chancellor's plans, which would have meant that many people who were ineligible for legal aid and who were acquitted could have been seriously out of pocket because of the limits on the costs that they could recover.
"This was entirely at odds with the accepted principles of justice. It was quite wrong for the previous Government to devise such a scheme and I am delighted that the court has struck it down"
The case was a judicial review of the previous Lord Chancellor's decision to introduce a scheme to limit the amount of costs that acquitted defendants can recover from central funds.
The case concerned the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, section 16 which gives the courts the power to award costs to successful defendants of such an amount "as the court considers to be reasonably sufficient to compensate the defendant for any expenses which he has properly incurred in the proceedings."