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UK Legal System - The Innocence Tax

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UK Legal System - The Innocence Tax

Old 13th Aug 2018, 16:16
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UK Legal System - The Innocence Tax

I currently work in a job which has potentially criminal legal responsibility, therefore I decided to spend a bit of time researching the legal system here in the UK.

I came across something called the "Innocence Tax", which affects people who are put on trial and subsequently found to be innocent of a crime. Historically, everyone had access to legal aid for the duration of their case and if found innocent, could claim pretty much the entirety of any costs back. However, this changed a few years ago. Currently, you can only claim legal aid in a Crown Court case if you have a household disposable income of less than £37500 and assets of less than circa. £20k. If you are found innocent, you can only claim costs back at legal aid rates, in order to be able to do this, you have to apply for legal aid even if you know you'll get turned down.

The legal aid rates have not been raised for donkeys' years, so most solicitors and barristers charge rates far higher, in some cases by many multiples. This has left innocent defendants seriously out of pocket.

An MP lost circa. £130k despite being found innocent after a trial.

A medical doctor recently lost circa. £93k despite being found innocent after a trial.

My trade union covers defence costs for any alleged work-related legal costs (i.e. negligence, tribunals etc.), however outside of the workplace they don't. I've had a look for insurance products and found one which existed a few years ago, however it appears to have been discontinued. I've also searched for legal forums, however I've not found any which deal with this sort of thing. I know there's a few lawyers/barristers on here so I thought I'd ask whether they know of any such products?

I'd like to add that at the time of writing I've never been accused of anything illegal, nor have I actually done anything illegal. I'm just aware that due to recent media coverage, it's very easy to end up falsely accused of criminal activity and I think it would be beneficial to anyone potentially caught up in the "Innocence Tax" to have some sort of security.
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Old 13th Aug 2018, 17:51
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Chris: The book recently published by the Secret Barrister covers this issue quite well. It is a hideous idea. Then add that to a person getting prison time for maintaining their innocence and you come up with a hideous legal system.
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Old 13th Aug 2018, 17:53
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The idea is that, when the state decides to make you a criminal, you shouldn't have to be found guilty to receive punishment: the system should be punishment in itself.

And it could be worse than the UK. If I remember correctly, Mark Steyn has been waiting about seven years to get his case heard in America, and had to spend six figures in legal fees with no end in sight.
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Old 14th Aug 2018, 14:25
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Chris, it’s surprising that all your research didn’t reveal that no one in a criminal trial in the UK is found “innocent”. The best you can hope for is “not guilty” (plus “not proven” in Scotland).

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Old 14th Aug 2018, 14:31
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I did take a quick look at the Mark Steyn case, it looks to me to involve libel of some sort, I presume it's a civil case too. It's shocking that the costs associated with it are so high. I'm tempted to purchase a copy of The Secret Barrister, I've read the blog and some of the stuff that goes on really does seem dreadful.

In the UK, I wouldn't mind quite so much so long as defence costs were insurable. Quite simply, if the government wanted to remove legal aid and repayment of defence costs, they should have looked at alternatives and primed the insurance companies to fill te gap. At least then, people found to be innocent wouldn't necessarily be out of pocket.

With the pressures the police and CPS are under, disclosure (or lack thereof) appears to have become a massive problems, sith the defence routinely being denied access to material which could prove innocence.
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Old 14th Aug 2018, 15:01
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Chris: Go ahead and purchase a copy of the Secret Barrister. It is both highly informative and highly dispiriting. It blows a lot of myths about our legal system out of the water. For example, who would have thought there are barristers out there earning less than the minimum wage!
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Old 14th Aug 2018, 15:11
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Originally Posted by Chris the Robot View Post
In the UK, I wouldn't mind quite so much so long as defence costs were insurable. Quite simply, if the government wanted to remove legal aid and repayment of defence costs, they should have looked at alternatives and primed the insurance companies to fill te gap. At least then, people found to be innocent wouldn't necessarily be out of pocket.
Except the insurer may say 'even though you're not guilty, if you don't take the plea bargain the government is offering, we won't cover any more fees.'

I have legal insurance over here, but I've heard stories of others who've been told pretty much that. Either they plead guilty to a crime they didn't commit, or they have to pay for the lawyers to fight it themselves.

Modern law is made by lawyers, to make lawyers rich.
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Old 14th Aug 2018, 15:45
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Originally Posted by MG23 View Post
I have legal insurance over here, but I've heard stories of others who've been told pretty much that. Either they plead guilty to a crime they didn't commit, or they have to pay for the lawyers to fight it themselves.
I once pleaded guilty to something I hadn't done.

It was a parking offence. My car was found by the traffic warden illegally parked on the public highway.

But that's not where I'd left it. I'd left it on private land, and it had rolled onto the public highway due to a faulty handbrake.

I decided that paying the parking fine would be cheaper and less trouble than being prosecuted for operating the unroadworthy vehicle.
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Old 14th Aug 2018, 16:11
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I'd left it on private land, and it had rolled onto the public highway due to a faulty handbrake.
I left a car parked and hand brake applied on a friend's snow covered sloping driveway. It gently slid back down the slope and was neatly parked across the pavement when I left to go home.
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Old 14th Aug 2018, 17:02
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Originally Posted by Bull at a Gate View Post
Chris, it’s surprising that all your research didn’t reveal that no one in a criminal trial in the UK is found “innocent”.
Or, to put it the other way, you don't need to be "found innocent" in a trial because you are already presumed to be innocent unless and until a court delivers a "guilty" verdict.

Although not according to the MoJ's mistaken assertion a few years ago: Ministry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
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Old 14th Aug 2018, 18:35
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You should also read my thread below

because the establishment. Shows that just because you are found not guilty does not in their eyes mean not guilty. They assume because the COS has deemed to take it to court you are guilty regardless.

Anyone else think this is plainly wrong
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Old 14th Aug 2018, 21:01
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If a witness said that bloke did it and two others said he didn't to the Police, would the Police ignore the two and present only evidence from the one.
In defence can the accused ask his solicitor to ask the Police for the other two names.
Or would the Police conveniently forget or hide who they were.
Police should hand over all the information they have, otherwise be prosecuted.
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Old 14th Aug 2018, 22:18
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Originally Posted by BigEndBob View Post
If a witness said that bloke did it and two others said he didn't to the Police, would the Police ignore the two and present only evidence from the one.
In defence can the accused ask his solicitor to ask the Police for the other two names.
Or would the Police conveniently forget or hide who they were.
Police should hand over all the information they have, otherwise be prosecuted.
The Secret Barrister suggests that it tends to come out in the end, even if "the end" is after some years of false imprisonment, provided that the victim has lawyers prepared to do very considerable amounts of work for free.
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Old 15th Aug 2018, 00:21
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The Secret Barrister also quotes more than one case where police failed to disclose vital evidence. Whether this was due to their being overworked and under resourced can be argued but I seem to remember at least one of those cases indicated police had knowingly failed to disclose evidence.
As for the "presumed innocent until found guilty" argument, I used to believe that too. Then I read of the case of the man cleared of rape after serving 17 years for it. In his case, the MoJ refused compensation as Failing Grayling had re-written the articles that cover compensation pay outs. These modifications made it necessary for the wrongly convicted to prove their innocence. In essence, they say "OK, things have changed and your conviction has been overturned. Now prove you really didn't do it and then you can talk about compensation". So there's a challenge; proving a negative.
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Old 15th Aug 2018, 12:11
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In my opinion, anything that is not proven in court should never appear on a CRB check, even if it's one of the enhanced ones.

Regarding disclosure, I think one of the main goals for the defence must be to obtain as much evidence as possible immediately after the initial allegation, i.e. copies of CCTV footage, on the assumption that anything the prosecution obtains won't be shared.

As course, in some alleged crimes, there is very little physical evidence, it's simply testimony, one persons word against another's. Rape/sexual assault allegations seem to fall into this category a lot, though where the complainant knew the suspect, there are often text messages etc. In the recent Liam Allan case these were not disclosed by the police, thankfully the prosecution barrister decided to fulfil his primary role of ensuring a fair trial and investigated further.

I must admit, if I were to date someone from now on, I'd be tempted to copy and save any text messages to a cloud server so I had access in case they decided to pursue false allegations at a later date.

At least a high-profile spotlight is now being shined on the practises at the moment and hopefully that will ensure greater transparency in the future.
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Old 16th Aug 2018, 11:19
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Sounds like America, if you go to court and you're found guilty you go to prison and the legal bills bankrupt you. If you're found not guilty the legal bills still bankrupt you. Most cases get settled on a plea bargain in return for a reduced sentence. An innocent person may well plead guilty and accept a short time in prison if they can't afford a proper defense and are looking at serious time if they lose.

5 years manslaughter instead of life for murder if you take it to court and your overworked, underpaid public defender loses.
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