Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

How does your pricing work?

You may be eligible for legal aid funding, depending on your financial circumstances and the court in which your case is being heard. You may be asked to make contributions towards your legal costs. These will be proportionate to your income.

If you are not eligible for legal aid, we are happy to represent you on a private basis. We work on a fixed fee basis and would provide you with an initial estimate once we have an understanding of the scope of your case, the complexity of the proceedings and the length of time we will be involved.

Once a fee has been agreed, this will need to be paid in advance. As soon as we are in funds, we will start work on your case, whether this is providing advice and assistance, liaising with other parties on your behalf, or representing you at court.

Which areas do you specialise in?

We specialise in serious criminal law, financial crime, sports law and regulatory matters. Please feel free to have a look around our website for further details.

What is your privacy policy?

Please click here to view our privacy policy.

Police Station FAQs

What should I do if I’ve been arrested?

If you are arrested, it means the police suspect you have committed a crime. Before the police can ask you questions, they must caution you. The caution is a verbal warning as follows:

“You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

Anything you say to the police after the caution will be written down or recorded and could be used as evidence in the case. You are always entitled to free legal advice before you answer questions in a police interview, even if this interview is voluntary.

There will always be a duty solicitor on-call at the police station to offer legal advice. You can either speak to the duty solicitor or request advice from a specific firm of solicitors. If you are arrested or have been asked to attend an interview at the police station, feel free to contact Nicholls & Nicholls to discuss your matter. We have a number of qualified police station representatives who may be able to assist.

Should I use a duty solicitor?

All duty solicitors are qualified to give legal advice. They are completely independent and not linked to the police. They are available immediately so there is no delay to the interview procedure. Nevertheless, you are also permitted to use a solicitor who you have experience with, or someone who has been recommended to you. It is essential that you have confidence in the person representing you at the police station.

How long can I be detained in custody?

The police have initial powers to detain you at the police station for up to 24 hours after your arrival. A police superintendent can authorise an extension of your detention for up to 36 hours for particularly serious allegations. After that, only a Magistrates’ Court can authorise detention to be extended up to a maximum of 96 hours (i.e. 4 days). Much longer detention can be authorised where a person is detained under the Terrorism Acts.

Can the police stop and search me on the street?

The police must have reasonable grounds for suspecting that you are carrying a bladed article or controlled drugs to be able to stop and search you on the street. There are also powers to stop and search in certain circumstances under the Terrorism Act 2000. On rare occasions, the police can stop and search you without the need for suspicion if there is a general reasonable belief that incidents involving serious violence might take place in a particular area. It is perfectly acceptable to ask what powers the police are exercising when you are stopped, and the officers should tell you.

What does police bail and bail to return mean?

Following arrest and interview, the police may still need to investigate the case. In this instance, they will not make a decision on your case and will ask you to return to the police station on another day. This is known as being ‘bailed to return’. You are released from the police station on the condition that you return at an agreed date in the future. During this time, you are on ‘police bail’ and there may be additional conditions such as to surrender your passport, observing a curfew or not entering a certain area.

What should I do if I’ve been charged with a criminal offence?

It is important to seek specialist legal advice as soon as you can if you have been charged with a criminal offence. We have expertise in a range of criminal matters as you can see from our About Us page. Feel free to contact us to discuss your case and we can assist with finding the right solicitor for you.

What does it mean if I have been released under investigation (RUI)?

Following a police station interview, the officer may confirm that you are being released under investigation. This means that you have not been charged, but that the case will continue to be investigated. The police may decide to charge you if further information about the allegations comes to light. In this instance you are likely to receive a postal summons to appear in court. Alternatively, the police may write to you and confirm that they are taking no further action. It may take months or even years for police to come to a decision on your case after releasing you under investigation. Unfortunately, this can be a very slow process.

What is a summons to appear in court?

A summons is a court order, which requires you to attend court on a certain date. You can be summonsed to court if you have been charged with a criminal offence. It is important to seek specialist legal advice as soon as you can before attending court. Please contact us to discuss your case and we will be happy to help.

What does it mean if the police confirm they are taking no further action (NFA)?

Following an interview at the police station, the police may decide that there is not enough evidence to charge you, or it is not in the public interest to prosecute you. If they confirm they are taking no further action, this means they are not taking the investigation any further in relation to the allegations against you and you will not be prosecuted at this stage. If more evidence comes to light, this decision may be reconsidered.

Magistrates’ Court FAQs

What happens at the first appearance at the Magistrates’ Court?

All criminal proceedings start in the Magistrates’ Court. For less serious offences, known as summary only offences, such as petty theft and common assault, the trial and sentence can be dealt with in this court. At the first appearance you will be asked to enter your plea.

More serious offences, known as either way offences, can be heard in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. At the first appearance you will be asked to enter your plea and it will be decided which court will deal with the case.

The most serious types of offences are known as ‘indictable only’. Initially, the case will be heard in the Magistrates’ Court before it is sent to the Crown Court, either for a ‘Committal for Sentence’ or Trial by Jury.

Who are the Magistrates?

The Magistrates are volunteers who must sit in court for at least 13 days each year. Anyone between the ages of 18-74 who permanently lives in England and Wales is eligible to be a Magistrate, as long as they don’t have a serious criminal record or conflict of interest. Magistrates are not necessarily qualified lawyers, but they do undertake some training before acting in Court.

How much credit do I get for a guilty plea?

If a defendant pleads guilty, or indicates a guilty plea, at the first available opportunity, i.e. the first appearance in the Magistrates’ Court, then they will receive a one-third reduction on any sentence. A guilty plea entered after this date will receive significantly less, but always more than if a defendant is found guilty after trial. There is an incentive for defendants to plead at the earliest opportunity in order to save court time and resources. However, a defendant should never feel pressured to plead guilty if they dispute some or all of the allegations against them. Our solicitors are able to advise on the evidence in your case and assist with your decision to plead guilty, enter a plea on a basis or challenge the allegations against you at trial.

What is a basis of plea?

A plea on a basis is a document setting out the defendant’s factual version of events. This document is used when a defendant disagrees in part with the prosecution case, but admits to ultimately having committed the offence. A basis of plea could significantly change the defendant’s sentencing category, but must first be agreed by the prosecution. If the prosecution do not agree, the basis can be put before a Judge at what is called a ‘Newton Hearing’. If the Judge considers the document to be acceptable, the defendant will be sentenced on the facts laid out in their basis of plea. However, if the Judge does not accept the basis, the defendant must consider submitting a revised basis, plead on the full facts, or challenge the allegations at trial by putting forward a defence.

What sentence can a Magistrates’ Court impose?

Previously, the maximum sentence that a Magistrates’ Court could impose was a 6-month custodial sentence or an unlimited fine. However, since 28 April 2022, Magistrates’ have increased powers to sentence defendants to 12 months’ imprisonment for a single offence, or an unlimited fine.
The sentencing guidelines for either-way offences have not changed. This change simply means that the Magistrates can deal with more serious cases that would warrant longer sentences, without having to send them to the Crown Court.

Can I appeal my sentence or conviction?

If you are concerned that the sentence you have received in the Magistrates’ Court is excessive, you have an automatic right to have this reviewed by the Crown Court within 21 days. We are able to advise on appealing both sentence and conviction from the Magistrates’ Court. Please contact us for a bespoke quote and we will be happy to help.

Crown Court FAQs

Do I need a barrister for my case?

Barristers are specialist advocates who can represent you at court. If your matter goes to the Crown Court, you will need an advocate to represent you and argue your case, cross-examine witnesses or present legal arguments to the Judge. We work with a number of excellent criminal barristers and can recommend a suitable advocate for your case. We also have in-house solicitor advocates who can appear in any court in England and Wales.

What is the difference between a solicitor, a solicitor advocate and a barrister?

A solicitor is a legally qualified individual who can offer specialist legal advice and assistance. They can also represent you at the police station and in a Magistrates’ Court. They conduct what is known as ‘litigation’, which involves a whole range of tasks to progress your case from drafting documents to the court, liaising with other parties in your case such as the prosecution service, taking witness statements and generally preparing your case for trial or sentence.

Some solicitors apply for a higher rights certificate which allows them to carry out the same work as barristers. This means they can represent you at higher courts such as the Crown Court and Court of Appeal.
Barristers are specialist advocates that focus solely on drafting legal arguments and advocacy at Court. Often, both solicitors and barristers are needed to ensure you are fully represented at trial.

What is a committal for sentence?

A committal for sentence is where a defendant has pleaded guilty, or been found guilty, in the Magistrates’ Court (or Youth Court), but the sentencing powers of the Magistrates’ are not enough for the particular offence. The case is then sent to the Crown Court, which has greater sentencing powers. A Judge of sufficient expertise and seniority will then decide on the sentence for the defendant.